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US Open Cup Preview: Sporting KC v FC Dallas: Absences & Starting XI

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Round six sees Sporting KC return home in their toughest challenge yet.

MLS: Sporting KC at FC Dallas Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting KC v FC Dallas (#SKCvFCD)

Tuesday, July 11, 2017 at 7:30 PM CT

How to Watch (Stream): SportingKC.com or USsoccer.com

The last two clubs to win the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup will meet in Kansas City to determine who moves on to the semi-final round. Sporting Kansas City has been the better team in Open Cup play as they are 2-0 lifetime against Dallas. They thrashed them with a 6-2 scoreline (including four Dom Dwyer goals) in 2015 and beat Dallas 4-0 in 2004. Both of those years SKC went on to win the whole thing.

The problem is that those were different Dallas teams. 2004 is obviously a lifetime ago in MLS and the 2015 team featured a non-premium lineup. Plus, Dom Dwyer, the hero of that game, is on international duty with the United States.

That leaves a rag-tag group of reserves looking to fill their shoes. Of the players available for Tuesday’s game, no one has more than two goals (Opara, Feilhaber and Blessing all have two in league play) and only Ike Opara (a freaking center back) has scored more than once in the US Open this year. He has a goal in each game. Relying on your center back for goals isn’t ideal.

As for the other meetings in 2017, those were also different teams. In the 0-0 draw at Sporting Park Children’s Mercy Park, Dallas put out a lineup filled with reserves as they prepared for a CONCACAF Champions League game that same week. And though the lineup for the 1-0 Dallas home win feature most of each team’s stars, many of those players will be absent due to international duty.

One player who didn’t appear in those games but is healthy now is Mauro Diaz. He had been recovering from knee surgery and only recently returned to the starting lineup. In fact both teams are very healthy coming into this match with only Gerso a possible scratch as he recovers from his dislocated shoulder he suffered against the Portland Timbers.

Also returning from injury for Dallas is Walker Zimmerman, half of perhaps the best (or second best if you ask Besler and Opara) CB duos in the league. The other half of that duo (Matt Hedges) will be away with the US National Team, much like Matt Besler for SKC.

Even though Dallas won’t be at full strength, they are likely to field the most competitive lineup that Sporting have seen in the 2017 Cup. Both Minnesota United and the Houston Dynamo put out backup filled lineups and KC was able to easily dispatch both teams (Minnesota much easier than Houston).

Dallas has had more trouble in the USOC having needed a stoppage time own goal to get past the Tulsa Roughnecks (USL). However, they handily beat Colorado (who ironically were the last team to beat Sporting) to advance to this sixth round game. The difference was no doubt the lineups and the better side came out and controlled the game against the Rapids.

Injuries

Sporting KC

OUT: None

QUESTIONABLE: Gerso Fernandes (dislocated shoulder)

Dallas

OUT: None

QUESTIONABLE: None

Suspensions

Sporting KC - None

Dallas - None

International Duty

Sporting KC - Dom Dwyer, Matt Besler, Graham Zusi (United States)

Dallas - Kellyn Acosta, Matt Hedges (United States), Maynor Figueroa (Honduras)

Recent Form (Open Cup)

Sporting KC - Last Five: W/W/L/W/W

Dallas - Last Five: W/W/W/W/W (they are the defending champs after all)

Leading Scorers (League Play)

  • Sporting KC: Gerso Fernandes (6), Dom Dwyer (5), Latif Blessing, Benny Feilhaber, Ike Opara (2)
  • Dallas: Maximiliano Urruit (11), Roland Lamah (8), Kellyn Acosta (3), Tesho Akindele (2)

Starting XI Predictions

It almost seems obvious to say at this point that Peter Vermes is going to put the best 11 players he has on the pitch. Without Besler, Zusi, and Dwyer there is more debate about who those best 11 players are.

As a quick reminder there are 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.

Rest of the 18: Zendejas, Porter, Ellis, Saad, Medranda, Iwasa, Storm

The first thing you’ll notice is there is no need for any USL loans in my lineup. That’s because, despite the international call ups, Sporting KC are suddenly a pretty deep team (that almost feels weird to say).

There are a few things I’m torn on. What five international players do you use? I’ve chose Gerso, Diego Rubio, Daniel Salloi, Ilie Sanchez and Jimmy Medranda. That leaves Latif Blessing out of the 18. If Gerso isn’t healthy enough to go, you make that switch. That also leaves out Soni Mustivar but if you have Medranda on the bench, he could play most of the midfield roles.

Another tough decision is who to start at forward. If Gerso is healthy enough, he plays. Rubio has looked great, but he’s coming off knee surgery so he definitely can’t go 90 minutes which means you have to burn a sub there. The other winger spot I’ve given to Salloi. He has a goal of the year candidate in his first MLS league goal (and he scored in the Open Cup already). He’s in much better form than Blessing lately and even Medranda on the wing (who I greatly prefer in the midfield).

The only other thing up for debate in my mind is Kevin Ellis or Erik Palmer-Brown. EPB looked pretty good in his first MLS start so that’s settled business for me. With there being a nice break for the Gold Cup after Tuesday, no reason to not play your best players.

[The fan vote was very close. I try not to look at it to not change my selections but you all picked the same lineup I did. For what it’s worth Blessing had just one less vote to start up top than Salloi at the time this article published. No other category was even close with Ellis getting just three votes.]

That will hold true for Dallas as well. They have a lot of really good talent and goal scorers. Maxi Urruti has scored at will this season and Roland Lamah is making everyone forget about Fabian Castillo leaving last year. Between the two of them they have 19 goals. SKC only have 24 as a team.

So the question comes down to what is always does in SKC. Can the offense get the defense at least one goal? It might not be enough but Tim Melia hasn’t given up a goal in the USOC yet and he leads the league goals conceded (0.70). That said, Dallas is second in league player averaging just one goal a game getting into the back of the net.

Prediction: 1-1 (4-3 in PKs) Sporting KC Win

Against all my better wisdom, I’m going to pick SKC. They are so good at home and the goals they’ve given up lately have been a bit flukey. Dallas is arguably the best team in the league and if anyone can break the 13+ month home unbeaten streak it’ll be them. But if it stays even through 120 minutes, PKs will decide it. Tim Melia has stopped three of the five PKs he’s faced this year. I like those odds.

Who do you think will start? Who do you think should start? And what is your prediction for an outcome? Let us know in the comments.