Minnesota United vs Sporting Kansas City: U.S. Open Cup Preview
The Minnesota United FC Loons will host Sporting Kansas City at Allianz Field this Wednesday, June 11, 2019. It is a 4th round match-up in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, and is both team’s first match in this year’s tournament. In 2018, both of these teams were eliminated from the Open Cup tournament by eventual champion Houston Dynamo (Minnesota falling in the Round of 16, KC in the Quarterfinals). The fourth round is the first round of the tournament to introduce Major League Soccer teams, and being a single elimination event, the loser of this mater will be one-and-done for 2019.
These 2 clubs are familiar with one another, as they played against each other 7 time over the course of the 2017 and 2018 seasons. However, this will be their first meeting of 2019. Kansas City, who is one of the MLS’s perennial playoff teams, and finished at the top of the Western Conference table are uncharacteristically struggling this year. They have won just 3 of their 15 matches so far this season, and currently sit 10th in the table, well out of playoff position. Minnesota, in their 3rd season in the MLS, have had a bit better results. They currently own the 6th position in the standings, and would be in the playoffs if they started today. The postseason birth would be a first for the franchise, but it is far from a given considering their current 3 loss streak.
Minnesota United vs Sporting Kansas City Vital Information
This matches can be viewed on ESPN Plus in the United States. The match is at 8:00 PM EST on Wednesday, June 12, 2019.
This will be the 8th meeting all time between Minnesota United and Sporting Kansas City. In the previous 7 meetings, Kansas City has won 4 times, Minnesota has won 1, and there has been 2 draw. It was a Kansas City victory in the most recent of those, 2-0, at Kansas City, back on August 25, 2018. This will be the second time that these two clubs have met in the U.S. Open Cup, in the past 3 seasons. That first match up was a bit of a thrashing, with Kanas City earning a 4-0 result of Minnesota back on June 14, 2017.
Five Points That Shouldn’t be Overlooked
These two teams have quite a bit of history in this event, even predating Minnesota’s MLS days. Unfortunately, for The Loons it has been quite one-sided in favor of Kansas City. In fact, this will be the 4th time in the past six seasons that the two will meet in the Open Cup. Kansas City has eliminated Minnesota from the tournament in each of their past 4 match-ups (2009, 2014, 2016, 2017).
Sporting KC is one of the most successful teams in the U.S. Open Cup, having won four times (2004, 2012, 2015, 2017). The four wins ties them with Seattle Sounders FC and Chicago Fire for the most U.S. Open Cup titles among active clubs. In fact, in the MLS era (since 1996), these 3 clubs have combined to win it 12 our of the last 23 years. Only long defunct Maccabi Los Angeles and Bethlehem Steel F.C., with 5 titles each, have won more.
In 1999, the U.S. Open Cup was renamed in honor of late Kansas City founder and owner Lamar Hunt. In addition to founding and owing the MLS team then known as the Kansas City Wizards, Hunt was also one of the founding fathers of the modern day NFL (American Football). He is even the man to have coined the name Super Bowl. At the time of his death in 2006, he was also the owner of Columbus Crew SC and FC Dallas. He had been chairman of Dallas Tornado, in the old NASL from 1967-1981.
The Minnesota franchise has competed in the Open Cup since 1999 with the exceptions of 2001, and 2011. Their most successful run in the tournament came back in 2005 when they were the Minnesota Stars, and made it all the way to the semifinals before being knocked off by eventual champion Los Angeles Galaxy. During that 2005 run, Minnesota did manage to get the better of Kansas City in the quarterfinal round in spite of being a second division team at the time. It was also the last time the Minnesota got the best of KC in this tournament.
One of storylines to watch in this one will be Center Back Ike Opara making his first appearance against his old team since moving from Kansas City to Minnesota this past offseason. The veteran defender had been with Kansas City since 2013 before the offseason move, and made 113 appearances with the club over that time. The 2017 MLS Defender of the Year is certainly familiar with KC’s tactics, and it will be interesting to see if this give Minnesota any kind of an edge in this match.
Minnesota United vs Sporting Kansas City Prediction
Both of these teams come into this match with something to prove. Minnesota is looking to prove that their recent 3 game losing streak is only a speed bump in the season, and that they belong in the postseason. Kansas City is looking to prove that their record is a bit of an aberration, and that they can bounce back to be competitive in the second half of the season. Their 26 goals scored, and -1 goal difference on the season certainly suggest that they are better than their record shows. Of course, in the Open Cup you can throw MLS records out the window, as evidenced by 2018 champions, Houston Dynamo, who finished 9th in the Western Conference and missed the playoffs in the MLS last season. Cup competitions also factor in things like roster depth, and how much emphasis the club is putting on the competition. That is why I give a slight edge to Kansas City.
As the older, and more established of the two franchises, Kansas City has more experience in this competition, has had success in it before, and has a better idea of how to manage their roster for a deep run. Furthermore, given their struggles in the MLS this year, winning the Open Cup is very likely Kansas City’s best shot at making the CONCACAF Champions League next year, and they could put additional focus on the competition for that reason. Minnesota on the other hand is a team that is focused on making it to the MLS playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Couple that with a relatively thin bench, made even thinner by Gold Cup call-ups, it is unlikely that Minnesota is going to make the Open Cup a top priority. I think both of these teams are fairly equally matched at this point in the season, and Minnesota does have the home field edge, but at the end of the day I will take Kansas City’s experience.
Prediction: Sporting Kansas City 2 Minnesota United FC 1
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