Seattle Sounders FC at Sporting KC
• WHEN/WHERE: 8 p.m. Wednesday at Livestrong Sporting Park
• TV/RADIO: GolTV/WHB-810 AM
• SPANISH RADIO: La Gran D-1340 AM
1. Seattle’s shot at history
There have been four teams that won the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in three consecutive years. The first was the Fall River Marksmen/New Bedford Whalers (1930-32) followed by Stix, Baer and Fuller/St. Louis Central Breweries (1933-35). More than three decades later, New York Greek American would turn the hat trick (1967-69), but it would be another four decades before the Seattle Sounders FC pulled off another three-peat. No team has ever won four in a row.
“It’s a unique opportunity for every single player on this team to make history, so we’re ready to go,” Seattle forward Fredy Montero said.
Sporting Kansas City, which is making its second U.S. Open Cup final appearance, is duly impressed.
“Four times in a row being in the final is an unbelievable feat, and it obviously doesn’t get as much play as it should,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said.
But Sporting KC also won’t be too wrapped up in the Sounders’ chase for a fourth straight title in the U.S. Open Cup’s 99-year history.
“It’s a nice little story in the paper, but for us it’s another game,” Sporting KC defender Matt Besler said. “It doesn’t matter that they are the three-time defending champs. It’s one game, and we want to beat them and be the champions this year.”
2. Espinoza’s return from Olympic glory
Finally, something has been found that can slow down Roger Espinoza, Sporting Kansas City’s Tasmanian Devil of the midfield. Espinoza’s, stirring performance with the Honduras under-23 men’s national team in an Olympic quarterfinal loss to Brazil sparked transfer rumors and drew a standing ovation from English soccer fans at Newcastle’s St. James’ Park, but he has been slowed by jet lag since returning from London.
“(Monday) I was sleeping all day, which is a bad idea, because now I can’t sleep at night,” Espinoza said.
But a breath later, he also vowed to be ready and said he hopes to start Wednesday against the Sounders. His energy along that of fellow midfielder Graham Zusi will be critical in disrupting Mauro Rosales in the middle of the park.
3. Mentor vs. prodigy
Peter Vermes and Sounders manager Sigi Schmid have considerable history together. Schmid was an assistant coach for the U.S. men’s national team in the early 1990s when Vermes was a player. Later, Vermes would serve as an assistant coach for Schmid with the U.S. under-20 men’s national team.
“I thank him for the opportunity he gave me,” said Vermes, who learned from Schmid many ideas he’s put into play with Sporting KC.
“Sigi has a great way of building a team,” Vermes continued. “And I emphasize team — a group of guys that are in pursuit of the same goal. Those are things that have always been important to me, and it just emphasizes how important it is from a coach’s perspective to stay centered around that.”
Schmid, meanwhile, praised Vermes’ dedication and work ethic.
“His drive, his passion and his commitment, he passes on to his players,” Schmid said. “You see that when they play.”
4. Olum’s chance to shine
Sporting center back Aurelien Collin hasn’t played since suffering two facial fractures on July 25 during the MLS All-Star Game against Chelsea, but that might have been a blessing in disguise with respect to the U.S. Open Cup as his absence pressed Lawrence Olum into a starting role.
Collin’s suspension for yellow-card accumulation has allowed Olum to build rapport with Sporting KC’s other starting center back Matt Besler ahead of Wednesday’s title tilt.
“The weekend game with the Revolution was big for us, and we’re feeling very comfortable with each other,” Besler said. “We gained a lot of confidence, going on the road and keeping a shutout against New England. We’re going to bring that confidence into the game.”
The duo also started July 28 in a 2-1 home loss against Columbus.
5. Sporting KC still seeks home scoring punch
Dating back to a 1-0 loss June 29 at home against the Chicago Fire, Sporting KC has netted only two goals in the last six appearances at Livestrong Sporting Park — and one was Kyle Miller’s miracle header to salvage a draw in a friendly with Stoke City FC. That goal drought has to change for Sporting KC to have a realistic chance Wednesday.
“Let’s hope so,” Besler said when asked if the squad had been saving its goal for the U.S. Open Cup final. “I’m not too worried about not being able to score a ton of goals at home as of late, because it’s just one game and we’re putting everything we have into it and leaving everything on the field.”
| Tod Palmer, firstname.lastname@example.org