Sporting KC

Sporting KC strives to boost U.S. Open Cup excitement

Sporting Kansas City midfielder Roger Espinoza (left) and Saint Louis FC forward Jeremy Lynch battled during a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup game June 16 at Sporting Park.
Sporting Kansas City midfielder Roger Espinoza (left) and Saint Louis FC forward Jeremy Lynch battled during a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup game June 16 at Sporting Park. along@kcstar.com

In an ideal world, Sporting Kansas City captain Matt Besler says, it would be hard to tell the difference between a regular-season game and a match in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

That is part of why he was so excited about Sporting’s ability to sell out its Open Cup opener against Saint Louis FC on June 16.

“That’s something we are trying to change as players,” Besler said. “We are trying to take the Open Cup matches just as seriously as the MLS Cup, so that was one of our messages to the guys this morning. We are four games away from possibly playing in a title, and I know our team is taking it very seriously.”

Sporting KC, which won its last U.S. Open Cup title in 2012, will continue this year’s Open Cup campaign at 7:30 tonight when it plays host to FC Dallas of Major League Soccer in the round of 16 at Sporting Park.

If Sporting KC is able to break its two-year streak of losses in the round of 16, the team would face the Houston Dynamo or Colorado Rapids in the quarterfinals on July 21 or 22.

This will be the third matchup of the season between the two teams, and each has a victory at home. FC Dallas won the first game 3-1 at Toyota Stadium, and Sporting KC came back for a 4-0 shutout May 29 at Sporting Park. Kansas City has nine shutouts in its last 17 matches and seven in 10 home games.

Although Sporting KC has had particular success against Dallas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, who has surrendered 12 goals in his last three starts against the team, Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes is still wary of Dallas’ dangerous offense.

“I call them a ‘street smart’ team,” Vermes said. “It’s almost like they can smell opportunities and smell the danger. They are a bunch of guys that play the game really well and have a strong competitiveness to win.”

Sporting KC is coming off a 2-0 win over Colorado in an MLS game and has won six consecutive games at home. In that span, the club has five shutouts and has outscored opponents 13-2.

Dallas is coming off a 2-0 win over Houston in MLS play Friday. Dallas defeated OKC Energy FC 4-1 in its 2015 U.S. Open Cup debut.

Sporting KC will be playing with Saint Louis FC goalkeeper Alex Riggs on loan. He was on the bench for Sporting KC’s 1-0 victory against Saint Louis FC in the fourth round.

To reach Kathleen Gier, call 816-234-4875 or send email to kgier@kcstar.com. Follow her on Twitter: @kgier

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