I don't normally do match previews here, because this isn't a soccer blog. I'm actually not even doing a proper preview of tonight's match against the Houston Dynamo, because others will do a more thorough job than I will anyway. I'm just posting to make the point that while MLS championships aren't won in April, tonight's match (which is, in fact, in April) can go a long way to deciding who makes the Western Conference playoffs. Losing in LA wasn't fun, but at least we all knew going into the season that Sporting was rebuilding. While LA has a bit of their own remodeling effort going on as well, only the wildly optimistic Sporting fan would have predicted that we would finish ahead of the Galaxy in the standings this season. The earlier flukey road losses to an extremely talented Dallas team kind of went into the same category, although that match at least featured a good performance by my Boys in Blue and truly terrible officiating. Home draws against at least decent, and possibly good, teams like the Timbers and RSL were opportunities for us to improve our play and find ourselves without losing ground to rivals who might well contest the final couple of playoff spots with us this season.
Tonight, more than anything, we don't want to lose ground to Houston.
Look, a win would be nice. I, for one, enjoy beating Houston like I enjoy beating no other team in the league. While there's a LOT of soccer to be played yet, if we win in that orangey thing the Dynamo call home Sporting will have a major advantage over Houston down the stretch. While early in the season, this match is a classic "six pointer." If Sporting wins, they get three points that Houston can't, for a net swing of six points between the teams. The catch is, this scenario works in reverse, too. If we lose, Houston has gets a huge advantage over us in the playoff race.
Combined with both teams having a lot to lose tonight, neither team has exactly been scoring goals by the bucketful. Plus, both teams at least aspire to have stout defenses, and have succeeded in that regard for stretches in the young season. All of this amounts to a high probability of a cagey game that will be both nerve-wracking and fun for a fan to watch, but probably not exactly a blast to watch for the casual soccer fan.
This one has 0-0 draw with a total of 57 fouls committed written all over it. I hope that I'm wrong and we win, but I fear I might be wrong and we'll lose. To find out if I'm right, and if I'm wrong in which way, they've got to play the game.