WHEN: Wednesday, July 27 | 9:30 PM CT (9:30 kickoff)
WHERE: Heart Health Park, Sacramento, CA
How to Watch/Stream: ESPN+ (link)
How to Listen: Sports Radio 810 WHB (English), La Grande 1340 AM (Spanish), SacTown 1140
Sporting Kansas City should have one, singular focus, at this point. Win the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. They are two games from lifting a trophy, while they probably need to win nine of 11 in MLS league play to even sniff the playoffs (they’ve lost two straight since we did the math). Absolutely everything comes down to these two games.
And the draw couldn’t have been more favorable. In the early rounds, when MLS teams (Sporting included) tend to put out lineups of backups and kids, SKC scored two come from behind victories over FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo. Then they’ve played lower division side Union Omaha (USL League One — third division) and now the Sacramento Republic FC (USL Championship — second division). Before the Omaha game, KC had played only two of 19 games against non-MLS competition. Two in a row is a bit of good fortune.
And they are catching the Quails (seriously, this is their nickname) at a pretty solid time. Sacramento haven’t won a game since June 25th at Monterrey Bay, an expansion USL side. However, despite going 0-2-2 in their last four, they are still 5-1-3 on the season when playing at home. The crowd should be quite wild with the chance to go to the US Open Cup on the line.
A match of importance for both teams is the game between Orlando City SC and the New York Red Bulls. They kickoff three hours earlier (also on ESPN+). If RBNY win and SKC win, the final would be in Kansas City. If Orlando win, they host. Sacramento has no path to hosting the final.
How Did We Get Here?
Sporting KC, being a high ranking (my how things change) MLS team from 2021, entered in the Fourth Round of the Cup (all but eight teams entered in round three). They had a come from behind victory against Dallas, before defeating Houston and finally crushing Union Omaha. All three of these games were in Kansas City, this marks the first road trip of the tourney.
Sacramento entered the competition in the second round, two rounds ahead of KC. They started by defeating the Portland Timbers U-23 (USL League Two) side 6-0 (hey, why can’t SKC II play in this tournament?) before defeating Central Valley Fuego FC (USL League One) 2-1 in the next round.
The competition stiffened as they met their first fellow USL Championship side, Phoenix Rising FC, who they beat 2-0, marking their first win over Phoenix in four years. After that win, it’s been back-to-back victories over MLS competition with a 2-0 home win over the San Jose Earthquakes followed by a 2-1 road win over the LA Galaxy.
QUESTIONABLE - None
#SportingKC head coach Peter Vermes says GK Tim Melia is out after suffering a hamstring injury against #LAFC and midfielder Felipe Hernandez is good to go for the game after suffering a head laceration in that same game— Aly Trost Martin (@AlyTrostMartin) July 26, 2022
OUT - None
QUESTIONABLE - None
Update: Rodrigo Lopez had been in health and safety protocols, but he’s now available.
I’ve been not doing entire posts for these in the Open Cup, but it’s just too big and there are too many questions. Look for that story, probably on game day.
This is the first time a lower division side has made the US Open Cup semifinals since FC Cincinnati (then in USL) made it in 2017. Admittedly, there was no cup in 2020 and 2021. The last time a lower division side made a final was the Charleston Battery in 2008. You have to go all the way back to the Rochester Rhinos in 1999 (when MLS was in it’s infancy) to find a lower division winner.
Sporting KC cannot let Sacramento advance to the final.
But the path is there. Kansas City have been quite poor this season. They are last in the Western Conference and ahead of only one team in the league overall. Their Open Cup path so far has been favorable. Sure, they beat two MLS teams, but all their games have been at home. Now they are forced to hit the road, just three days after losing 2-0 to LAFC at home in brutally hot weather.
On the road this year, SKC are 2-8-3. They are still better than Sacramento, even without KC’s injured players, but the Republic rested many of their starters over the weekend while Sporting basically played all theirs. I think Kansas City win this, but it would be super 2022 of them to find a way to lose.
The world (outside of KC) is rooting against Kansas City. Stop the cupset!