Boxy vs. SKC
© Peter G. Aiken

Minnesota United FC vs. Sporting Kansas City | U.S. Open Cup Preview

MINNESOTA UNITED FC VS. SPORTING KANSAS CITY
Allianz Field | Saint Paul, Minnesota
06.12.2019 | U.S. Open Cup Fourth Round
7:00 p.m. CT (Stream: ESPN+, Twitter: @MNUFCMatch)

After a run of three consecutive MLS defeats, Minnesota United returns to Allianz Field for Fourth Round action in the 2019 U.S. Open Cup as MNUFC clashes with Sporting Kansas City. The visitors — who have been known to take the storied competition seriously — will present a challenge to the Loons as they look to break through on offense.

The Loons welcome SKC to Allianz Field — the first time the Loons have hosted a U.S. Open Cup game since 2016 — this Wednesday, June 12 at 7:00 p.m. CT. Please note that gates will open at 6:00 p.m. for this game. The game will be streamed live on ESPN+ which can be watched at espn.com/watch or live in the ESPN app. If you don’t have access to ESPN+, navigate to our match day Twitter (@MNUFCmatch) for live updates throughout the game.

On Saturday, a towering Kei Kamara header was all the Colorado Rapids needed as the Minnesota attack sputtered and came up short in a 1-0 road loss. On the season, the last goal that came from a Minnesota attacker was Ethan Finlay’s 70th minute, game-winning goal against the Columbus Crew on Saturday, May 18. Four games later, the Minnesota United front line is without a goal in 580 minutes of open play. A noticeably upset Adrian Heath was aggravated after his team fell on the road to the last place Rapids.

“I was frustrated tonight,” Heath said following the game. “This is not being disrespectful to Colorado, but I think if we had played as well as we can and taken the initiative, even taken the game to them, I think there would have been something in this game for us. We’ve had to go a goal down to really start to get going again and you can’t do that, especially on the road.”

Although the game ultimately ended in defeat, Saturday’s MLS action saw defender Chase Gaspar and midfielder Collin Martin grab their first minutes for the club this season. Both were substituted on in the second half and immediately made an impact on the game with their energy and proficient linking of midfield and defensive play.

“I thought both of them were excellent when they came on,” said Heath when asked about the pair. “Chase is naturally left footed so he gave us good balance down there. [He] picked his moments to go forward very well, used the ball well [and] defended well. I thought Collin was excellent when he came in. He gave us some energy and gave us some really good continuity play.”

Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup action will provide players such as Collin Martin and Chase Gasper another chance to prove themselves to the Minnesota United faithful. The historic competition — which started in 1914 as the National Challenge Cup — is known to provide young players with the opportunity to get first-team minutes under their belts. The competition also provides lower division teams a chance to challenge themselves against MLS squads, as Gasper did with FC Golden State when he was in college.

“[The] Open Cup is an incredible tournament, an American tradition,” said Gasper. “In college, over summers when I played [in the] PDL – I played with FC Golden State in Los Angeles, California – we actually went really far. I was told that we went the furthest out of any PDL team in history. I’m just looking forward to the game on Wednesday.”

Winners of the U.S. Open Cup in 2012, 2015 and 2017, Sporting Kansas City are notorious for consistently fielding strong sides as they progress through the latter stages of the competition. As expected, Adrian Heath was aware of the visitors’ reputation in the Cup going into Wednesday’s game.

“They’ve traditionally done very well in the Open Cup,” he said. “They normally go pretty close [to winning it] and they’ve taken it seriously over the years and I don’t think it will be any different on Wednesday. They’re a little bit like us, they’ve played a lot of games in a short period of time, [they have] people away on international duties [and] people with injuries. So I think it’s a big game for both of us on Wednesday but we know what’s coming.”

After its U.S. Open Cup matchup with SKC, Minnesota United have the following two weekends off – a short break that comes at an opportune time for a fatigued MNUFC squad that has seemed devoid of creativity in its recent games.

MNUFC returns to action with a friendly at Breese Stevens Field in Madison, Wisconsin, against USL League One side Forward Madison FC on Tuesday, June 25 at 7:00 p.m. CT. The Loons then resume their MLS campaign as they host last year’s Fourth Round U.S. Open Cup opponent, FC Cincinnati, on Saturday, June 29 at 3:00 p.m. CT. Pregame coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. CT on ESPN and on MNUFC Radio on SKOR North.

INJURY REPORT

Minnesota United FC

  • QUESTIONABLE: GK – Bobby Shuttleworth (right knee)
  • QUESTIONABLE: D – Brent Kallman (right lower leg)
  • QUESTIONABLE: D – Ike Opara (general)
  • OUT: M – Osvaldo Alonso (right quad)
  • OUT: F – Abu Danladi (left leg)

Sporting Kansas City

  • OUT: F – Erik Hurtado (right knee surgery 3/19, out 2-3 months)
  • OUT: D – Jaylin Lindsey (torn meniscus 3/30, out 4-5 months)
  • OUT: D – Rodney Wallace (hip surgery 4/23, out 4-6 months)
  • OUT: M – Roger Espinoza (knee injury 4/23, out 2-3 months)
  • QUESTIONABLE: D – Matt Besler (hamstring injury)

FIRST TOUCHES

  • This is the 10th all-time meeting between Minnesota and Sporting Kansas City since 2014. This is the fourth time the teams have played in the Open Cup.
  • SKC has won all three of the previous Open Cup games with Minnesota.
  • This is the first USOC game Minnesota has hosted since 2016. That game was against SKC at the National Sports Center in Blaine. SKC won the game 2-1 in extra time.
  • The Loons reached the Round of 16 last year after defeating FC Cincinnati in penalty kicks in the opening game. Minnesota was eliminated by the eventual champions Houston Dynamo.
  • Minnesota is 5-7-2 in Open Cup play since 2010.
  • A Minnesota team has never won the Open Cup.
  • The Minnesota Thunder had the best-ever finish for a Minnesota team in the competition, reaching the Semifinal of the 2005 edition of the tournament.
  • Sporting Kansas City last won the Open Cup in 2017.
  • 84 teams qualified for the 2019 U.S. Open Cup. The competition is the longest-running soccer competition in the U.S., currently in its 106th year, and is open for all U.S.-based teams from the amateur ranks up through MLS.
  • All 21 American MLS teams entered the competition in the Fourth Round.
  • The First Round contains teams from the amateur qualifiers, National Premier Soccer League, USL League One and USL League Two.
  • USL Championship teams enter the Cup in the Second Round.
  • The winner of the Open Cup will earn a spot in the 2020 Concacaf Champions League and a $300,000 prize purse.
  • The winner of this game will learn its Round of 16 opponent when the tournament’s final bracket is drawn on Thursday, June 13.
  • Sporting Kansas City is the only team to ever win the Open Cup for more than one state. It won the 2004 title while based in Missouri and the 2012, 2015 and 2017 editions based in Kansas.
  • The two teams will not meet in league play until August 22 at Children’s Mercy Park.
  • Orange County FC is the only non-MLS or USL Championship team remaining in the tournament. They defeated Las Vegas Lights FC 5-3 to advance from the Third Round.
  • Ike Opara spent six seasons with Sporting Kansas City, representing the club from 2013 through 2018. He made 127 regular season appearances for SKC, scoring 13 goals and providing five assists.
  • Lawrence Olum played for Sporting KC from 2011 through 2014 and rejoined the team in 2016. He took the field 87 times for the club with five goals and three assists to his credit.
  • Ethan Finlay, Brent Kallman and Seth Sinovic were teammates at Creighton University in 2009. Sinovic later played with Bobby Shuttleworth from 2010 to 2011 with the New England Revolution.
  • Peter Vermes and Manny Lagos were teammates on the New York/New Jersey MetroStars for the inaugural MLS season in 1996. Lagos played the 1997 season on the MetroStars with current Sporting KC Assistant Coach Kerry Zavagnin.
  • Kelyn Rowe and Bobby Shuttleworth were teammates on New England Revolution from 2012 through 2016.
  • Benny Feilhaber played the 2011 and 2012 seasons with Shuttleworth as a member of the Revs.
  • Graham Smith and Hassani Dotson both played for Oregon State in 2015.