SPORTING KANSAS CITY vs. MINNESOTA UNITED FC
Children’s Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
06.14.17 | U.S. Open Cup Fourth Round
7:30 p.m. CT (YouTube)
It’s déjà vu all over again as the Loons clicks their heels three times and returns to Kansas to face Sporting KC for the second match in a row, for the third time in 2017 and for the third time in the last four years of U.S. Open Cup play. MLS teams join the fray of the tournament in the fourth round, where they are mostly matched up with winners from the previous rounds. When MNUFC was part of the NASL, this was where the team encountered SKC in both 2014 and 2016, losing both times. Pile together those losses with the team’s disappointing 3-0 loss in Kansas City on June 3 and you have a recipe for some bad blood and a strong desire for a measure of redemption.
The best remedy for a tough road loss?
“Hard work,” said Head Coach Adrian Heath. “Nothing comes easy. If you don’t want to work hard Monday through Friday to affect your performance on a Saturday, then if you don’t work hard on Saturday, then the following week hard work is inevitably around the corner. I spoke to the lads this morning, and they needed a few days off because a lot of them have been carrying one or two little knocks and a little bit of an illness going through the camp for the last 10 days or so. But we got back in. I told them the weekend was unacceptable. Performance was unacceptable. Result was unacceptable. Hey, we move on now. We have to turn that page and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Although Heath is loath to use his team’s shorthanded roster as an excuse for the loss (“There are ways of losing games of football — last Saturday wasn’t one of the ways”), the Loons will once again have to cope with notable absences from the lineup. Midfielder Sam Cronin returns after a one-match suspension, but the team will still be without defender Francisco Calvo and midfielder Johan Venegas while they play for the Costa Rican national team. Additionally, midfielder Kevin Molino will be away with the Trinidad and Tobago national team and defender Jermaine Taylor — who started at center back against SKC last time out — is with the Jamaican national team.
“We need everybody,” said Heath. “Most of the guys who are fit will travel, so we’re working from there.”
That includes defender Brent Kallman, who’s been with the Loons long enough to have played with the team in the 2016 Open Cup match against Kansas City. His memory might be long, but his focus is squarely on turning things around from last week, not last year.
“You can’t ask for a better chance at redemption,” said Kallman. “You instantly get to go right back there and try to change things around. I think we’re looking forward to it. We got to put in a really good week of training. And then we have a shot to go out and right some wrongs. We’re super excited.”
The opportunity to go back to the site of a recent disappointment is appealing to Heath as well, although he knows the pitfalls of history repeating itself if the team doesn’t take the loss to heart.
“It’ll only be good if we have a reaction to what happened last weekend,” he said. “Kansas City is probably one of the most difficult places to go and play in the MLS. The only way we can win is if everything changes, is if their attitude, the way that they approach the game. So we’ll see.”
Although it’s Heath’s first year with MNUFC, he himself has Open Cup experience both the second and first divisions since he coached Orlando City as an MLS and USL team.
“When we were a USL team, we managed to get to the quarter finals twice, put a few MLS teams out, and then we got beat as an MLS club by Fort Lauderdale,” said Heath. “The difficult part is trying to get people minutes who need it, or trying to progress. And then we’ll have to see what we do in terms of the team. Balancing that act of giving people minutes and being competitive is sometimes the most difficult thing.”
Win or lose, the team will have to move on quickly as they head directly from Kansas City to Salt Lake City to face Real Salt Lake this weekend. Kickoff at Rio Tinto Stadium is set for 9:00 p.m., with coverage on My29 and MNUFC Radio on 1500 ESPN beginning at 8:30 p.m.
OUT: M - Bernardo Anor (left lower leg injury)
OUT: M/D - Thomas de Villardi (left Achilles injury)
OUT: D - Vadim Demidov (left knee injury)
OUT: D - Erik Palmer-Brown (thigh injury)
QUESTIONABLE: D - Kevin Ellis (quad strain)
QUESTIONABLE: F - Latif Blessing (hip injury)
QUESTIONABLE: M - Roger Espinoza (lower back injury)
QUESTIONABLE: F - Diego Rubio (torn ACL)