The Lamar Hunt US Open Cup is back in action as the Houston Dynamo will face Sporting Kansas City in round 5 of the competition. Both clubs will be missing some personnel to international call-ups and each side will also have an eye on fixtures this weekend for MLS play. This is the first meeting between the two sides this season and should be a good one even if some reserves get the start. SKC sit at the top of the Western Conference table with the Dynamo directly beneath them.
In our preview of the match we discussed how each club got to this round in the tournament, but we wanted an insider’s perspective so we spoke with Cody Bradley at the Blue Testament to discuss the upcoming game.
Dynamo Theory: In SKC’s last Open Cup match they fielded a team with plenty of first team players which helped them get the best of Minnesota United FC to the tune of 4-0. What is SKC’s approach to the Open Cup in regards to how it weighs it against league games (since both our squads will be playing again this weekend) and how will that translate to lineup decisions for Peter Vermes?
The Blue Testament: The club definitely values this tournament. With 16 teams remaining, you are only four wins away from a trophy and SKC fans demand silverware. However Vermes couldn't play his preferred XI, even if he wanted to. Besler, Zusi, and now Dom Dwyer are all with the USMNT. To make it worse Feilhaber picked up a shin/ankle injury last week and he's likely out for Wednesday. So we will definitely see some backups.
The spot I am the most interested in will be at CF for Dwyer. Soony Saad seems to be the likely choice as Diego Rubio is with the Swope Park Rangers. Soony hasn’t necessarily impressed in his short time on the pitch this year, but his last outing he scored a screamer of a goal (although the refs didn’t see it cross the line and Medranda got credit for the follow up). So he should be working with some confidence and I’m eager to see what he can do with the start.
DT: SKC has the best record in the Western Conference largely due to their league best defense. What has made them so difficult to breakdown and how could the Dynamo hope to find a hole in that stubborn back four?
TBT: The main thing has been the chemistry between the four starters. They have all been together for years now - Besler & Sinovic go all the way back to youth soccer in KC. However, one half of the back line will be missing Wednesday so they will not be that same brick wall. But the heroics of Tim Melia behind them and the coolness of Ilie in front of them have shown this is a pretty solid defensive team no matter who plays on the back line. One worry is that Sporting really do count on Tim Melia for at least one big moment every game. SKC like to control the ball the ball and get players up the pitch which obviously leaves them exposed. And they've shown they aren't afraid to do this on the road either. On Saturday they went into the half with 63% possession in Carson City vs the Galaxy! So a speedy attack with guys like Cubo Torres & Alberth Elis will absolutely get chances on the counter. The big questions is whether they can capitalize.
DT: While SKC has had an outstanding defense, their offense is currently tied for 4th worst in the West during regular season play. How will they hope to break down the Dynamo who are unbeaten at home this year during the regular season?
TBT: That is a damn good question my friend. They'll be without their maestro in Feilhaber. They won't have Dwyer's threat of creating a goal out of nothing in the blink of an eye. The Captain is gone for crying out loud!
I think this is a big chance for Jimmy Medranda to really come into his own. I believe he is capable of being very good in this role, but we have only seen flashes of his potential this year. Gerso is probably going to be asked to create chances for himself this match and he has the ability to do so. Ilie Sanchez can also slice through a defense with one long ball from the back of the midfield. That is dangerous when combined with the speed of Latif Blessing, who is likely start on the left wing again.
Sporting KC will look a little different, but they're still capable of winning this one.
Projected Lineup: (4-3-3) Melia, Sinovic, Ellis, Opara, Abdul-Salaam, Sanchez, Espinoza, Medranda, Blessing, Rubio, Gerso
For my answers to Cody’s excellent questions check them out at the Blue Testament!