USOC preview: Sporting KC, Seattle meet with title on line
SPORTING KC vs. SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC
LIVESTRONG SPORTING PARK, KANSAS CITY, KAN.
August 8, 2012 (LAMAR HUNT US OPEN CUP FINAL)
9 pm ET (GolTV, Live chat at MLSsoccer.com)
History is on the line tonight at Livestrong Sporting Park.
For Kansas City, it's the opportunity to start a legacy, to cement a place in the club's history books. For Seattle, it's a chance to accomplish a feat that's never been done before, to win four straight US Open Cup titles and claim supremecy in the knockout competition.
Coverage at MLSsoccer.com starts at 8 pm ET with the US Open Cup Pregame show, followed by a live chat as the match airs on GolTV at 9 pm ET.
SPORTING KANSAS CITY
For most teams, the decision of how many key players to commit to US Open Cup competition becomes a balancing act.
For Sporting Kansas City, who host the city’s first Cup final since 2004, it’s a matter of figuring out which players are even healthy enough for sustained action in what could be a 120-minute outing.
Manager Peter Vermes, whose team has already been chomped on hard by the injury bug, had some more bad news on Tuesday:
Midfielder Roger Espinoza, who rejoined Sporting this week after a strong showing in the London Olympics, has a banged-up shoulder – not severe enough to keep him out of the final, but enough to concern the team about his availability for impending league action.
“He was actually dealing with a little in [last Saturday’s] Brazil game as well,” Vermes said in a pre-Cup conference call. “He's gone through a lot. Roger is a beast, though. He finds a way.”
And though Sporting have an important MLS Eastern Conference matchup with D.C. United looming on Saturday, they’ll need Espinoza to step up against Seattle’s three-time defending champions in Wednesday’s final at Livestrong Sporting Park.
“Whether he's going to have enough for the entire game and come the following weekend, that's something that we're going to have to assess as we go through each game,” Vermes said. “He's an important guy and a strong guy, but it's something we have to assess as we get closer to the game.”
WATCH: Zusi, Besler and Espinoza on USOC final
Vermes is always loath to discuss lineups before any match, but one safe bet for Wednesday is that Lawrence Olum will replace Aurélien Collin – who was suspended for yellow-card accumulation even before he sustained facial fractures in the MLS All-Star Game – at center back.
Wingers Bobby Convey (hamstring) and Jacob Peterson (shoulder sprain) are also doubtful, at best. Less certain is whether right back Chance Myers (groin strain) and center forward C.J. Sapong (abductor strain) have recovered well enough to play.
“We've used quite a few different lineups and we'll have to do the same tomorrow night,” Vermes said. “We're going to put everything on the line and every guy will give everything they have."
– Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.
SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC
There’s nothing less than a chance at history on the line for the Seattle Sounders when they attempt to win a fourth straight US Open Cup title.
They are well aware.
“Like I’ve said before a number of times, it’s not just good enough for us to be there this time,” said Sounders midfielder Brad Evans, one of eight players who has played on all four Cup squads. “It’s something that we haven’t taken for granted. We’ve taken this tournament very serious. The Open Cup has been good to us. We’ll be away from home in a warm, crazy atmosphere, but it’s a challenge we’re looking forward to.”
Just one other team has even managed to get to four straight Open Cup finals, but that was in 1937 and accomplished under very different circumstances. During the MLS era of the tournament, no other team has even won it twice in a row or even made it to three straight finals.
Even looking beyond the United States, no team in England, France, Germany or Italy has won four straight domestic cups and only a handful have managed to make it to four consecutive finals. Athletic Bilbao are the last team to win four straight Spanish Copas del Rey, and that was done from 1930-33.
The Sounders, meanwhile, have managed to go 15-0-1 and have outscored their opponents 38-10 over four years to get to this point. Numbers nothing short of mind-boggling considering the one-and-done nature of the competition.
“I know the Open Cup is sometimes considered a secondary trophy, but you have to remember it's a big game,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said. “It's a game where it's a knockout competition. I think that ... in our fourth season in a knockout competition, we haven't lost a game.
WATCH: Sounders ready for fourth straight cup
“When you have a bad day, a guy could get a cold at a wrong time, you can run into a hot goalkeeper, there are all kinds of things that can happen and we've been able to get through all those hurdles. The game against San Jose this year was a good example of that, where it was just reach down and gut check, and the guys did it.”
And while no one equates winning this tournament to the MLS Cup, a step Seattle hope to remedy this year after a few early playoff exits, the Sounders certainly appreciate the USOC’s unique importance.
“It would be something special to be a part of because when you're done you want to leave a legacy,” Sounders forward Eddie Johnson said. “You want to look back and say, 'Oh, I was a part of this team when they did this.' There's a lot of professional athletes around the world that played for many years, made some good money in their careers, but haven't won anything. You want to be remembered when you're done because people forget about you real quick. ... It's special.”
– Jeremiah Oshan covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.