Tonight, the Houston Dynamo try to reach the Open Cup semifinals for the first time since 2009. To achieve that, they'll enter Kansas City and try to knock off a team that most recently won the tournament in 2012. The winner of this match will advance to host Real Salt Lake in mid-August.
Tuesday night could also mark the first appearance of Erick "Cubo" Torres for the Dynamo. The Mexican International, after much delay, arrived and joined the team on their road trip through Utah and Kansas City. Whether or not he'll get the start is up to Owen Coyle but Cubo has maintained his fitness by training privately in Guadalajara while waiting on visa issues to resolve.
Cubo aside, the two teams that kick off tonight will be significantly changed from the controversial 4-4 thriller they played in April. For Houston, international absences and injuries plague the starting XI. Giles Barnes and DaMarcus Beasley will compete in the Gold Cup semifinal on Wednesday night while Boniek Garcia, Jermaine Taylor, and Rob Lovejoy continue to rehab injuries. Add to that the departure of Corey Ashe (who started both of Houston's Open Cup matches), and the Dynamo will be considerably shuffled.
Kansas City will be without Graham Zusi and Benny Feilhaber, away with the United States, as well as the injured Seth Sinovic and Bernardo Anor. On Monday, Sporting also traded midfielder Servando Carrasco to Orlando City for Amobi Okugo. It's not clear if Okugo will be prepared to step in for Kansas City tonight.
What does this mean for the Dynamo? It may serve as a great opportunity to test a real starting lineup without risking league points. Defensively, there aren't many bench options so Houston should roll with a first choice back line. This also provides a chance to integrate Cubo Torres up top with Bruin or by himself. It could also be the match to solidify Alex Lima or Leonel Miranda in the starting lineup with the team facing a potential long-term injury to Boniek.
Figuring out ways around Matt Besler and stopping players like Dom Dwyer and Krisztian Nemeth are still the primary areas of focus and Coyle has a great occasion to measure his Best XI against real MLS competition. Tonight could very well provide a glimpse of what the Dynamo look like down the final homestretch, grasping for the playoffs.
Houston enters this match after defeating the Austin Aztex and Colorado Rapids in previous rounds. Kansas City brushed aside USL team Saint Louis FC and romped on FC Dallas to the tune of 6-2. The winner of this match will host Real Salt Lake in the Open Cup semifinals on August 11th or 12th. Looking ahead, Houston hosts LA Galaxy in league play on Saturday with Sporting traveling to Real Salt Lake on Friday night.
The match will be broadcast on HoustonDynamo.com/live and is available on the radio at 1560AM. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30PM CDT.
Photo Credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images