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US Open Cup Preview: Sporting KC v Minnesota United

Updates on injuries and international absences and we try to pin down who could possibly start this mid-week tournament game.

MLS: Minnesota United FC at Sporting KC Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting KC vs Minnesota United (#SKCvMIN)

Wednesday, June 14, 2017 at 7:30 PM CT (Full Schedule)

How to Watch: or

Does this feel like deja vu? It kind of feels like we’ve been here before. Well it’s because we have. Not only have Sporting Kansas City played Minnesota United twice since May 7th but this will be the third time in four years the teams have met in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. SKC have gotten the better of Minnesota in the US Open games but in MLS it’s an even 1-1 split, with the home team winning both times. KC are at home for this clash.

This US Open game seems likely to be a lot different than the prior two MLS regular season meetings because the rosters seem very likely to be changed. What is different about this game is MLS teams are allowed to do short-term loans from the USL. The only problem with that is Minnesota doesn’t have a USL team or affiliate. Sporting KC of course have the Swope Park Rangers.

There are of course rules around loaning players from USL teams to MLS clubs. During the regular season they can only be done in the case of extreme hardships but it changes during the Open Cup.

  • Players may sign up to four, four-day contracts (16 total days)
  • Player must be 25-years old or younger (CBA Rule 18.8, Section iii)

Those are the MLS rules but the US Open have some rules of their own. The most noticeable rule is that only five foreign players can be on the roster. There are a few more limiting factors since there are so many injuries and international absences.


Sporting KC

OUT: Erik Palmer-Brown (thigh injury)

QUESTIONABLE: Roger Espinoza (back spasms), Latif Blessing (hip), Diego Rubio (torn ACL), Kevin Ellis (quadriceps muscle strain)


OUT: Bernardo Anor (left lower leg injury), Thomas de Villardi (left Achilles injury), Miguel Ibarra (right calf injury), Jerome Thiesson (right shoulder/right calf injury), Vadim Demidov (left knee injury)

QUESTIONABLE: Sam Cronin (neck injury), Abu Danladi (right adductor injury), Marc Burch (heat illness)

International Duty

Sporting KC - Matt Besler, (United States) Graham Zusi (United States), Tyler Pasher (Canada), Soony Saad (Lebanon), Kevin Oliveira [SPR] (Cape Verde)

Minnesota - Francisco Calvo (Costa Rica), Johan Venegas (Costa Rica), Kevin Molino (Trinidad and Tobago)

Now technically international duty will be over for all the Sporting KC players, but Pasher and Saad play the day before the Open Cup game. It’s very questionable if SKC would have anyone available from that list for the Minnesota game. United on the other hand have all of their players in an international match against each other the same day as the match in KC, so they’ll be out.

As for who may play on Wednesday, let’s look at it by position.

Seattle Sounders FC v Sporting Kansas City Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images


Tim Melia has been lights out but likely will take a break Wednesday. Alec Kann was the starter in the Open Cup last year so expect a backup to get the job this week. It could be Andrew Dykstra but Adrian Zendejas seems like the choice. Verdict: Zendejas

Center backs

Kevin Ellis is apparently not injured any longer despite being “out indefinitely” just a week ago. While a muscle injury can flair up easily, Ellis may be one of two options that are available. Amer Didic seems very likely to play in the Open Cup as he did in the CONCACAF Champions League last year. Ellis and Didic have also played together on SPR, so that probably carries some weight. It’s possible Erik Palmer-Brown could be able to go, but he was the only player listed out on Saturday. The only other options would be a loan from SPR. Verdict: Ellis and Didic

Full backs

I fully expect Zusi and Seth Sinovic to get some rest. With Pasher playing for Canada that only leaves two full backs on the roster (if you don’t count Jimmy Medranda). Saad Abdul-Salaam and Igor Juliao. The last time we saw Juliao he was getting eviscerated by this Minnesota club. SAS on the other hand was earning MLS Team of the Week honors. I’d put Medranda at LB but he’s needed in the middle.

Colton Storm, another right back, could be an option but he’s missed the last two SPR games with an abdominal injury. Another option could be Parker Maher from Swope Park, who actually plays left back, but I feel like Vermes wants to get minutes for the first team (despite my wishes against Igor ever playing again). Verdict: Abdul-Salaam and Juliao (someone can play out left surely).


Soni Mustivar will start at holding midfielder despite his awful turnover on Saturday. Medranda may be needed in the midfield, but he could also probably use some rest. It seems like a bad idea to keep playing Benny Feilhaber three times in a week, but I wouldn’t completely rule it out. That leaves literally no one else listed as a midfielder on the SKC roster that can play outside of Roger Espinoza who should rest as well.

It would seem they need to turn to the Swope Park Rangers who have lots of options. Christian Duke is out (he’s too old for the loan rules), Oliveira will probably have just gotten back from Africa and Lebo Moloto is too old too. That leaves mostly kids like Felipe Hernandez, Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal or Bennett. I’d love to see Oliveira but that’s a tough travel schedule. The only catch with SPR is that Wan Kamal was originally signed on an Academy contract, so it’s unclear if he can even be loaned. Hernandez probably can since he signed a pro contract. Verdict: Mustivar, Medranda, Hernandez (but let’s be honest, Vermes will probably keep playing Roger).


There is so much depth at forward that only injuries effect this. Dom Dwyer needs to rest (though desperation could bring him off the bench). If Latif Blessing is healthy I want him out there. He wasn’t in the 18 Saturday but that could have been to rest him for this game. Daniel Salloi needs a start and then the center forward can either be Cameron Porter or Cameron Iwasa. Iwasa finally broke through with SPR this weekend but Porter had success last year in the CCL. The wildcard is Diego Rubio. He was in the 18 and may be deserving of a start if healthy. He clearly can’t go 90, but maybe just let him play as long as he feels OK. Verdict: Blessing, Porter, Salloi

Rest of the 18

There will probably be lots of starters on the bench just waiting to come on and make a difference. Vermes never seems to do subs when his regular starters are exhausted, but he loves to get them on the pitch when they are supposed to be getting a rest game. Wild Guesses: Melia, Dwyer, Feilhaber, Sinovic, Besler, Iwasa, Espinoza

International Count (5): Juliao, Mustivar, Medranda, Blessing, Salloi

It’s unclear if Amer Didic counts as an international (he doesn’t on SKC’s roster, but he’s definitely Canadian). If he does, that changes things. There are so many factors it feels impossible to predict this lineup or an outcome.

Regardless, there has to be a winner since this is a tournament game. If the game is even after 90 minutes and stoppage time, then they’ll play two 15-minute extra time periods. If they are still even then it will go to penalty kicks to decide a winner. If SKC win they may play the winner of the Colorado Rapids game against Oklahoma City Energy FC, the draw will be done on June 15th.

Who do you think will start? Who do you think should start? Let us know in the comments.