Quick, name the first opposing team to win a game at Livestrong Sporting Park.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
If your answer was an MLS team, any MLS team, it is dead wrong.
Livestrong had been christened for barely a month when the Richmond Kickers arrived last July 12 for a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal matchup.
Facing the only non-MLS squad remaining in the bracket, it seemed like Sporting Kansas City had caught a break and would coast into the tourney semifinals.
But the Kickers, who play in the third-tier United Soccer Leagues Professional Division (USL Pro), weren’t in an obliging mood.
“It was one of those games we didn’t come ready to play,” left back Seth Sinovic said. “I don’t think we necessarily took them lightly, but we just weren’t ready to play and we suffered for it.”
Instead of rolling over, Richmond handed Sporting KC a decisive 2-0 loss — the first in the new stadium’s history for manager Peter Vermes’ squad, which is determined to avoid a similar fate at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in a third-round Open Cup meeting against Orlando City SC.
“We had a bad feeling, almost an embarrassing feeling after that loss,” Sporting KC central defender Matt Besler said.
With that lesson in mind, Sporting KC knows better than to overlook an Orlando City side that won the inaugural USL Pro title last year.
“I hope people realize that Orlando is a really good team,” Besler said. “It’s not going to be a walk in the park at all, but we’re focused. We’re not going to be thinking down the road and stuff. All we have is Tuesday, so we’re going to put everything we have into that game.”
Orlando City features a handful of former MLS players, including Kyle Davies, as well as John Rooney, who is the younger brother of Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney.
Anthony Pulis — whose father, Tony, coaches Stoke City FC, which will play an Aug. 1 friendly at Livestrong — also plays for Orlando City.
“Orlando City is a strong USL team, so it will be a tough challenge for us,” said Sinovic, who was already playing with a cast on his right hand when he gashed his left hand and needed 20 stitches early in Sunday’s 2-1 victory against the San Jose Earthquakes.
Vermes indicated Sinovic will be available Tuesday night in what could be an all-hands-on-deck battle.
Some veterans are expected to play limited minutes with the quick turnaround, but with no MLS matches until June 16 — the league is taking a break to accommodate worldwide FIFA World Cup qualifying — there isn’t as much urgency to rest weary legs.
“Any of the guys that played (Sunday) will be ready for Tuesday,” said midfielder Graham Zusi, who notched his seventh assist of the season against the ‘Quakes. “I don’t think that’s going to be an issue at all, but it’s completely up to (coach Peter Vermes).”
There isn’t a player on the roster who isn’t ready to ensure Sporting KC atones for last season’s quarterfinal defeat.
“It’s in everybody’s mind,” defender Chance Myers said. “We came out and put in a good 45 or 50 minutes and then took our foot off the pedal, but Orlando’s a good team and we know it.”
Sporting KC’s only Open Cup title came in 2004, but the club would love to break the Seattle Sounders FC’s stranglehold on the championship.
Seattle has won three straight Open Cup championships, which is named after Sporting KC’s founder.
“That early exit sticks with and we’re taking the (U.S. Open) competition a little more serious this year,” Zusi said. “We want to win it. It’s just another route into the Champions League for us. This would be a good way to do it.”
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.