"The US Open Cup is a pointless competition that MLS teams don't take seriously." At least that's what seems to be the popular opinion of the yearly United States-based club competition, aptly named the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. Often times, MLS clubs do not take the competition seriously and choose to use it as a way to get younger/reserve players playing time, and avoid using regular starters to keep them well-rested.
As someone that happens to take a liking to cup competitions and get caught up in the thrill of an unexpected, story-book run to the finals by a lesser club, it is extremely pleasing to see that Sporting Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes is taking Wednesday night's qualifying game against Houston Dynamo so seriously. Or, at least it appears that way, based on the squad of 18 players he is taking to College Station, TX in tow.
Though officially unconfirmed, the traveling squad should look something very similar to a regular MLS gameday 18. With forward Omar Bravo having not played on the weekend at Vancouver Whitecaps, he will surely be available against Houston. Of all the regular starters and bench players, I expect only defender Julio Cesar Santos, who did not participate in practice on Tuesday, to not be available. Starting goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen will also not make the trip, allowing for backup Eric Kronberg to pick up a rare, but deserved, start with the first team.
Recent Results: While Sporting KC are coming off a crushing collapse on Saturday night against Vancouver, in which they blew a 3-0 lead to draw 3-3, Houston are also coming off of an away draw, albeit of a completely different sort. They took a road point off of New York Red Bulls on Saturday night for their second straight draw of the season.
Injuries: Houston will be without talisman Brian Ching, thanks to a rib injury suffered against New York when Ching and Red Bulls keeper Bouna Condoul came together during a challenge. They also look to be without forward Calen Carr, too, who is recovering from a concussion.
Last Two Meetings: HOU 3-0 KC (May 1, 2010), KC 4-3 HOU September 22, 2010) Houston put the hurt on KC in the first meeting of 2010, but Josh Wolff's 97th minute winner late in the season at CommunityAmerica Ballpark was one of the big highlights of KC's otherwise dismal 2010 campaign.
Projected Starting XI's:
HOU (via Dynamo Theory) (4-4-2): Tyler Deric / Kofi Sarkodie - Andre Hainault - Jordan Graye - Mike Chabala / Alex Dixon - Lovel Palmer - Corey Ashe - Josue Soto / Will Bruin - Jason Garey
SKC (4-3-3): Eric Kronberg / Michael Harrington - Shavar Thomas - Matt Besler - Roger Espinoza / Stephane Auvray - Milso Stojcev - Davy Arnaud / Omar Bravo - Teal Bunbury - Kei Kamara
The game will be streamed live on SportingKC.com, along with a live chat. There will likely not be an open thread here for the game tonight, seeing as how watching a game online isn't conducive to having other windows and/or tabs for a live thread. We'll certainly have a postgame wrap-up and anaylsis, though.
Also, check out the first-ever episode of The Daily Wiz's podcast, where podcast host Trent McGee and I discuss tonight's game, along with Saturday's disaster in Vancouver.