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US Open Cup Preview: Sporting KC vs. Minnesota United

We have injuries, international duty and wild guesses at a starting lineup.

MLS: Minnesota United FC at Sporting KC Peter G. Aiken

Sporting KC @ Minnesota United (#MINvSKC)

When: Wednesday, June 12, 2019 at 7:00 PM CT

Where: Allianz Field

How to Watch/Stream: ESPN+

(We aren’t going to beg, but this is the only way to watch the game and clicking that link makes us some money)

Wednesday’s Lamar Hunt US Open Cup game will mean lots of familiar faces. First, it’ll be the first time Ike Opara has played against Sporting Kansas City since the club traded him to Southern Canada Minnesota back in late January.

Additionally it will mark the fifth time that Sporting KC have played a team from Minnesota in the Open Cup since 2005. In 2005 and 2009 it was the now defunct Minnesota Thunder. And since 2014 it’s been Minnesota United FC. Sporting KC have won all three games against Minnesota United, two at home and one on the road. The road matchup was the toughest as SKC needed a 109th minute goal from Diego Rubio to advance.

But back to that Ike Opara guy. With Sporting Kansas City sitting all the way down in 10th place in the standings (MNUFC are 6th), many fans are decrying the trade of Opara. His replacement, Andreu Fontas, has been injured for much of the season and has only played in eight of the 15 games SKC have been in (seven starts). It’s too early to tell with how many injuries Sporting have, but the trade is considered by many to be a mistake.

SKC enter the match with just one win in their last 11 outings (1-4-6). Minnesota are doing better, but not by much. After winning three of their first five MLS games, they’ve only picked up three more wins in the subsequent 11 games (3-5-3). They are also in a bit of a rough patch having lost three straight as they welcome Sporting KC to their new stadium.

Ironically, the poor run of form has mostly come at home for Minnesota. Of the 11 games, only four were on the road (all losses). So even though Minnesota have been poor lately they’ve only lost once at home (Philadelphia Union). SKC will need to find a win to advance in the tournament.

Injuries

Sporting KC

OUT - Erik Hurtado (knee surgery and wrist surgery), Jaylin Lindsey (torn meniscus and wrist surgery), Rodney Wallace (hip injury), Roger Espinoza (PCL)

QUESTIONABLE - Matt Besler (hamstring)

*This story will be updated with the official injury report.

Minnesota

OUT - Ike Opara (general), Ozzie Alonso (quad), Abu Danladi (hamstring), Brent Kallman (leg)

QUESTIONABLE - Bobby Shuttleworth (right knee injury)

[Update 6/11/19 @ 3:06 PM CT: Andy Greder has updated injury report for Minnesota. No Ike after all.]

International Duty

Sporting KC - Johnny Russell (Scotland), Krisztian Nemeth (Hungary), Botond Barath (Hungary), Nicolas Hasler (Liechtenstein)

Minnesota - Rasmus Schuller (Finland), Jan Gregus (Slovakia), Kevin Molino (Trinidad and Tobago), Romain Metanire (Madagascar)

Starting XI

Before we go any further, a quick reminder around the rules for 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.

Peter Vermes tends to take the Open Cup pretty seriously and year-after-year he puts out a nearly first choice lineup. Then in 2018 against Real Salt Lake, he really didn’t. He played a 5-3-2 (3-5-2 in attack) that was really more of a 5-3-1-1 with Johnny Russell playing underneath Kharlton Belmar They both ended up scoring, even if it took a while to get there.

That lineup seems highly unlikely as most of the players are gone (Russell is on international duty) and there may not be three healthy center backs available with Barath out of the country and Besler nursing a hamstring injury. I suspect we’ll see Peter revert back to his standard 4-3-3.

The question then becomes does SKC loan any Swope Park Rangers up to play with the first team? If recent history is an indicator, I’d say no. But let’s take a look at a few interesting candidates for fun.

  • Felipe Hernandez - He’s the best player on SPR and leads the team in goals. He plays a lot like Roger Espinoza and it’d be a good reward to put him on the field. Ironically midfield is SKC’s deepest spot, so it might not work out, though he’s very deserving.
  • Alexsander - The Brazilian left back leads SPR in assists and is a joy to watch. He’s just 20-years-old but his international status and the fact that he’s already on loan could complicate things. Plus Jimmy Medranda could be due a start at LB finally.
  • Wilson Harris - The former SKC Academy player is literally the only healthy, natural center forward available on either roster. He hasn’t shown much (SPR have struggled on the whole) but he could maybe find his way into the 18.
  • Camden Riley - Riley was actually the only 2019 MLS SuperDraft pick by KC to get a contract, he just got one with the second team. He’s had some shaky moments but he’s improved throughout the year. He may get loaned in just because he can play CB and SKC didn’t have one on the bench last Friday against Toronto FC.

Another thing to keep in mind is the international spots available. While MLS allows eight on a roster, in the US Open Cup, probably because of the whole United States part, teams are limited to five players. SKC are fantastic at getting green cards, so it’s a bit of a moot point. With all the international call-ups, SKC only have internationals Yohan Croizet, Felipe Gutierrez and Andreu Fontas available. The other four who are away are their other four currently on the roster taking up international slots.

As for who plays, your guess is as good as mine. I suspect players like Besler who are recovering from injury won’t play but that SKC will put out a mostly first choice lineup (based on bodies available).

Rest of the 18: Dick, Feilhaber, Rowe, Riley (SPR), Harris (SPR), Sinovic, Zelalem

Fan XI Predictions

In the fan voting you guys were pretty torn. You also had Zendejas starting in goal with 51% of the vote (Melia had 41.2%). In defense you all mirrored my lineup but Sinovic got 41.2% of the vote (to Medranda’s 56.9%). Besler got 23.5% as many of you probably suspect they’ll rest him as I imagined as well.

The midfield got really wonky with only Busio running away with things at 72.5%. Ilie had 51% and there was a tie for the last spot between Feilhaber and Gutierrez at 41.2%). Kuzain came in just below them with 39.2%. Rowe even got a decent amount of midfield votes at 29.4%). On the wings you guys agreed with Gerso torching the field (78.4%) while Salloi edged out Rowe (52.9% to 47.1%).

At center forward Croizet ran away with 82.4% but Salloi came in second with 9.8% and Freeman, Harris and “some USL guy” getting 8% combined.

Prediction

Minnesota are actually in worse form than SKC in the most recent couple of games. That said, both teams have short rest (though SKC got one more day) and their poor form could make for a rough game. Minnesota are solid (if unspectacular) at home and SKC are still without a road win. In the US Open you can technically advance with a draw (and by winning the subsequent PK shootout). So SKC wouldn’t need to break their road futility to move on.

It would be just Sporting’s luck to win a game that will cause further congestion. Personally I can’t start picking SKC until they prove they deserve to be picked as winners.

Result: 1-1 Draw. Minnesota advance 4-3 on Penalties

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