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US Open Cup - Sporting Kansas City at Houston Dynamo: Three Questions with Dynamo Theory

Sporting Kansas City head to Houston Wednesday night to face the Dynamo in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round of 16. I got with our fellow SB Nation Blog, Dynamo Theory, to discuss this gritty rivalry match.

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Sporting KC may be showing signs of an upswing as of late, and will need to be on point Wednesday night as they travel to Houston for an elimination game against a long time rival. The Dynamo handled San Antonio FC 4-0 in the last round, although they have been struggling terribly in MLS.

I got with Derek Stowers from over at the Houston blog, Dynamo Theory, to discuss what should be a very heated affair.

Here are your Three Questions But Really Six.

We ask them...

1) The Blue Testament: Since Owen Coyle was let go (fired?/mutually parted ways with?/quit?), Wade Barrett has been the interim head coach. Is there an active search for a permanent replacement? Anybody you are hoping for? Any rumors?

Derek Stowers: Owen Coyle and the Dynamo organization parted ways mutually, but our terrible season likely made it easier for both sides to say goodbye. Wade Barrett, along with two other assistants, shared responsibilities during our first two matches without Coyle. Those were two road matches in Vancouver and Dallas – both notoriously difficult places to play in. Barrett helped lead the Dynamo to two draws, our first road points of the year, which helped earn him the interim nod for the rest of the season. The Dynamo came to that conclusion during the international break after considering a few other candidates, notably head coach of our USL affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley FC Toros, Wilmer Cabrera.

I haven’t heard anything about an active search which might take place if Barrett can’t get some wins under his belt, but right now the assumption is that Barrett is the coach until the offseason and then we move from there. As far as anyone that I’m hoping for goes, I’m hoping Barrett can be the man for the job because he’s well liked in Houston and has paid his dues as an assistant under Dominic Kinnear and under Owen Coyle. But apart from him I wouldn’t be opposed to Jason Kreis (because I’m a big fan of his diamond 4-4-2 he utilized with Real Salt Lake) or Wilmer Cabrera who has done a lot in developing talent with younger or inexperienced players.

2) TBT: The Dynamo have four people with at least three goals, six people with multiple assists, and even the shots on goal are spread out among the squad. Is the fact that everybody contributes a point of pride? Or is this team really missing an MVP?

DS: There are a few reasons why it’s so spread out. The first is the Dynamo started the season off at a blistering scoring pace which mostly capitalized on finishing opportunities created from turnovers. That meant whoever was nearest the goal or won the ball could have gotten the goal or an assist. After the first few games, the Dynamo grew concerned about their defense and put more energy on that side of the ball which resulted in a big drop off in offense.

The other issue is consistency, both lineup/personnel consistency and form. Will Bruin has been in and out of the starting XI all year, and he is a top scorer for us. Midfielders like Ricardo Clark have stepped up (Clark being my MVP so far this season by the way) and provided help to scoring recently due to a formation change which provides him room to advance higher up the field. Other players, such as Andrew Wenger, have shown up to score at times but are inconsistent. Wenger often puts a lot of energy on the defensive side so when the team spends time defending for large stretches, he’s often helping there instead of serving as a threat offensively.

What the team needs more than a MVP is consistency. Figure out a best XI and stick to it. Let the players grow and develop chemistry and play in a style that suits that XI. This team is fantastic when it presses opponents in their own half, but too often we’ve seen them begin games pressing only to sit back and allow teams back in, or worse, they won’t press at all which stagnates our offense.

3) TBT: Sitting at the bottom of the table I have to think Houston will be going all in for this Open Cup. Five straight without a win in MLS, but they destroyed San Antonio FC 4-0 in the last round of this tournament. Can we expect to see a full strength lineup from the Dynamo? Anybody SKC fans should keep an eye on?

DS: I don’t think we will be a full strength lineup, but I think we’ll see something close to it. That means 3-4 2nd stringers and a few others that are starting caliber, but have been out competed for a spot. It’s hard to tell who exactly to look out for given it’s an Open Cup match and lineups can wildly vary, but there is one players who I would expect to go most of the game and that is Mauro Manotas. Manotas has scored 2 goals in 4 appearances while with the Toros and scored in the last Dynamo US Open Cup game. He has a nose for goal and is willing to take shots from distance or dribble in for a better look. He’s also both incredibly strong and quick which should prove to be troublesome for the SKC backline.

Dynamo Theory Predictions

Lineup: (4-3-3) Joe Willis; DaMarcus Beasley, Agus, David Horst, Sheanon Williams; Zach Steinberger, David Rocha, Alex Lima; Oscar Boniek Garcia, Mauro Manotas, Leonel Miranda

Score: 3-2 Dynamo. We get it done at home with a brace coming from Manotas.

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They ask us...

1) Dynamo Theory: Sporting Kansas City is the reigning US Open Cup champion, the club’s third USOC title. Does Peter Vermes place a lot of emphasis on the competition, or does he try to balance things between MLS action?

Cody Bradley: Sporting and the city as a whole are proud of the history in this competition and will always love a chance to compete for more silverware. The tournament is named for Lamar Hunt who is obviously very close with Kansas City and well respected around here. But even more so than other years, you have to think there is even more incentive to do well this year in defense of their title.

Now with the way everything else is going right now, the club may not have any other choice than to put a lot of emphasis on this tournament anyway. Last round Vermes played a depleted lineup... but because he had to. It was the strongest lineup possible. Sporting KC has a Sunday match in MLS this week so with an extra day to rest, Vermes will likely play a strong starting XI against Houston.

2) DT: SKC had to pull some late magic in order to advance against Minnesota United FC. The game featured a pair of penalties (one per side) and a late winner in extra time to get SKC through. What made Minnesota United so difficult to get through? Was it self-inflicted mistakes? Or did Minnesota United really play up to its competition?

CB: These early round matches against lower division teams always make me nervous. They were playing their biggest match of the year and it was in Minnesota, so I knew it wouldn't be easy. What made them difficult to get through was the same reason SKC struggles in MLS. They simple struggle with finishing chances. They have not scored more than two goals in any game this year. That being said I believe MUFC were very fortunate on the penalty call. It was definitely a foul and not a good one, but it appeared to be outside the box.

Sporting KC did well to survive that tough environment and you have to win matches like that along the way to a trophy.

3) DT: The Dynamo and SKC faced off in last year’s Open Cup which saw the Dynamo down a man, then up a goal, and then lose the game 3-1. These games, even Open Cup matches, against each other bring out the fight in both sides. What can we expect in this game from a physical standpoint and how many cards do you believe we’ll see handed out?

CB: Any match featuring one of these teams will have a healthy dose of physicality. When they come together it always gets crazy and I love it. But now.... they meet for another elimination game. I could see this match getting really chippy even by this rivalry's standards. Both teams are going to be scrapping and clawing to advance in this tournament as they are struggling in league play. I'm expecting no less than 3 yellow cards. Hoping everyone survives without injury but I'm ready for some half shoving and almost-fights all night.

The Blue Testament Predictions

Lineup: (4-3-3) Alec Kann, Jimmy Medranda, Matt Besler, Ike Opara, Saad Abdul-Salaam, Soni Mustivar, Roger Espinoza, Benny Feilhaber, Connor Hallisey, Dom Dwyer, Graham Zusi

Score: Sporting KC win 3 - 2 riding the hot hand of Dom Dwyer