The timing of the U.S. Open Cup places its participants in somewhat of a predicament. It falls annually in the midst of the summer, forcing teams to display a preference for either the domestic cup or the MLS regular season.
The Sporting Kansas City lineup Wednesday pondered a third option: Why not both?
Using nearly all of its first-string players, Sporting KC rolled to a 4-0 victory Wednesday against Minnesota United FC in the fourth round of the Open Cup.
Sporting KC, which was one of 19 MLS teams to enter the tournament in the fourth round this week, will learn its fifth-round opponent Thursday morning.
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“People can say what they want about whether this is an important competition — we think it’s important, and that’s all that matters to us,” Sporting KC captain Matt Besler said. “To us, winning this tournament is like winning a championship, a trophy. That’s one of our goals every season.
“Our coaches have that philosophy, as well, and that’s probably you saw that lineup tonight.”
Sporting KC used goals from Ike Opara and Gerso Fernandes to offset the doldrums of the first half and then added goals from Dom Dwyer and Daniel Salloi after halftime to complete the onslaught in front of 15,260 at Children’s Mercy Park.
Minnesota United FC defender Joseph Greenspan was stretchered off the field in the second half with an apparent head injury after lying on the grass for 11 minutes. He was transported to KU Medical Center for further evaluation, per a team spokesperson.
Greenspan reached for a header but instead connected his face with Sporting KC midfielder Roger Espinoza’s rib cage. He fell to the ground immediately upon contact. As he departed the stadium, he signaled a thumbs up to the crowd.
“He’s got a neck injury of some description. Obviously we’ll know a bit better (Thursday),” Minnesota coach Adrian Heath said.
The scary moment overshadowed a dominant final hour from Sporting KC. The initial 40 minutes left much to be desired, but Opara broke the lethargy in the 43rd minute. His header completed a corner kick from Graham Zusi, giving Sporting KC its first corner-kick goal of 2017.
After halftime, Dwyer moved atop the franchise’s all-time Open Cup scoring list with his sixth goal in the competition.
Salloi recorded his first goal in a Sporting KC uniform in the 83rd minute to finish the rout. Salloi started the match on the left wing but — against his wishes — moved to the right wing when Latif Blessing entered as a substitute.
“It worked out for me,” Salloi said.
The two teams met 11 days ago on the same field, and Sporting KC prevailed 3-0. That was in MLS play.
Minnesota had not played a match since. Yet it was Sporting KC that opted for a first-rate, despite a looming Western Conference match in San Jose on Saturday evening.
A day after acknowledging he was toying with using his regulars or adding some reserves to the lineup, coach Peter Vermes chose the former. The starting group consisted of 10 regulars, leaving only midfielder Benny Feilhaber on the bench. Feilhaber still played the final half hour as a substitute.
“I don’t know why I wouldn’t put the best group of guys I could out there to win the game. That’s what I did,” Vermes said. “This is a very important tournament. It’s an opportunity for us to win a trophy, and we’re going to do the best we can.”