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US Open Cup Preview: Sporting KC v San Jose: Absences & Starting XI

Just one more win separates Sporting KC from their fourth US Open Cup final. They’ve won the previous three.

MLS: Sporting KC at San Jose Earthquakes Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting KC v San Jose Earthquakes (#SKCvSJ)

Wednesday, August 9, 2017 at 7:30 PM CT

How to Watch (Stream): or

Nearly one month ago Sporting Kansas City won one of the craziest games in their history. The team sent down a man in the 15th minute against FC Dallas on a Seth Sinovic red card but managed to push the game into extra time. From there, Dallas would get a red (via a second yellow card) of their own and Sporting would suddenly reel off three unanswered goals. After that Sporting drew home field advantage for the remainder of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.

It hasn’t been all peachy from there. While Sporting KC haven’t lost any games since then, they have had trials and tribulations to overcome. Ike Opara suffered a severe concussion on the very play that turned the tide of the game. He honestly hasn’t seemed the same since then and he’s still sporting extra protection for that head injury.

Then Sporting KC shocked the American soccer world by dealing Dom Dwyer to Orlando City SC in a record shattering intra-league trade. Technically Sporting have made an addition in that time bringing in former Barca B player Cristian Lobato, but he is in no way a Dwyer replacement (and doesn’t even play center forward — preferring midfield or the wing). There is an argument that this move is addition by subtraction, but the game against San Jose will be a huge factor in determining if that’s true.

Speaking of the Earthquakes, they’ll be looking to make their first ever US Open Cup final with a victory on Wednesday. They have come to the semi-finals one time prior. Back in 2004 they played the then Kansas City Wizards but ultimately lost 1-0 as the Wizards were on their way to their first Open Cup title. Sporting are far more familiar with this territory having been to the finals three times previously. They won all three times.

In 2017 these two teams have already met twice. Sporting KC won the first meeting at Sporting Park Children’s Mercy Park by a score of 2-1 on the back of a huge late save from Tim Melia. Their other meeting was a 0-0 draw in San Jose. There can be no ties on Wednesday with a place in the finals on the line. If the game is tied at the end of 90 minutes it’ll go to 30 minutes of extra time before potentially going to penalty kicks.


Sporting KC

OUT: Cameron Porter (broken fibula and ligament damage in right ankle)


San Jose

OUT: Harold Cummings (leg surgery), Marc Pelosi (left knee injury), Anibal Godoy (knee injury)

QUESTIONABLE: Jahmir Hyka (hamstring injury), Kip Colvey (knee injury)


Sporting KC - Seth Sinovic (red card)

San Jose - None

Recent Form (Open Cup)

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

San Jose - Last Five:

Leading Scorers (League Play)

  • Sporting KC: Gerso Fernandes (6), Benny Feilhaber, Dom Dwyer (5), Latif Blessing (3), Ike Opara, Daniel Salloi (2)
  • San Jose: L/L/W/W/W

Starting XI Predictions

Sporting just played a game on Sunday, but no one can doubt Peter Vermes is all in at this point. The best 11 should be on the field with just two games to go to win a trophy.

Just in case, here is a quick reminder that 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.

Just before the last Open Cup game Sporting KC pulled a real fast one by getting green cards for Jimmy Medranda and Gerso. They will no longer take up one of those five precious international slots.

Filling those five spots is still a little tough. There are four no-brainers: Ilie Sanchez, Latif Blessing, Diego Rubio and Daniel Salloi. The fifth spot could either go to Cristian Lobato or Soni Mustivar. Though Mustivar appears to be in the dog house, he provides more midfield versatility as he can really cover for Espinoza or Ilie if something were to happen in the game injury wise. It wouldn’t stun me to see Lobato since he’s played in the last two games. Then again, Vermes could pull one over and stick in Tyler Pasher since Sinovic is suspended which allows Mustivar into the midfield.

The only other starter job that should really be up for debate is how the front four line up. It should be some combination of Latif Blessing, Diego Rubio, Gerso and Daniel Salloi. Blessing has been such a monster lately, he probably shouldn’t be sat. The combination of Blessing, Rubio and Salloi was very powerful in their only start together, but Gerso has a lot of goodwill and will probably be in there. I’d prefer Gerso or Blessing off the bench with all their late speed, but Salloi is probably the guy on the bench.

While no other spots are really up for debate in my eyes, Feilhaber started the Dallas game on the bench and he was the late spark that ultimately won the game. It’s harder to start him from the bench with Medranda likely forced to play left back with Sinovic suspended.

Speaking of Jimmy, it’ll be very interesting to see how he plays next to Matt Besler. Besler arguably had his worst season to date last year with Medranda lined up next to him. In the last Open Cup game where Medranda was forced to slide back to left back after Sinovic was sent off and they effectively shut Dallas down.

Rest of the 18: Zendejas, Palmer-Brown, Ellis, Salloi, Mustivar, Abdul-Salaam, Saad

With the lineup sorted, how do we pick a winner? We have to go with history. San Jose have been really bad in Kansas City outside the 5-0 thrashing in 2015 that they handed Sporting. That game was a real aberration because SKC were without both Espinoza and Mustivar in the midfield. That marked the lone Sporting KC appearance for Amobi Okugo who is Portland’s problem now.

While there are undoubtedly questions around the SKC attack and San Jose are a better team in 2016 than recent years, there is something about that home field advantage. Sporting KC have 14+ months of games at CMP without a loss. Despite the short rest, this team will be ready to go. Zusi, Rubio and Feilhaber got some rest on Sunday for a reason. This game is the reason.

Prediction: 1-0 Sporting KC Win

You just never know, but #IBelieve.

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.