Monday, June 15, 2015

Match Day USOC: Finally a Meaningful KC vs St. Louis Game

For the first time since the very early 1970s, Kansas City and St. Louis will face off in a competitive outdoor game on Tuesday night at Sporting Park in the fourth round of the US Open Cup. While the two cities have faced off numerous times in baseball, football, and even indoor soccer with the likes of the Comets, Attack, Ambush, and Steamers, outdoor soccer has always lacked in terms of play between the two teams. The last time teams from KC and St. Louis met was in a friendly between the KC Wizards and AC St. Louis in 2010. With KC not qualifying for the Open Cup and St. Louis folding after the one season there's really been no chance for two cities to face off.

St. Louis heads into the game having picked up 14 points in their 11 league games, a 3-3-5 record. They've drawn their last five games in all competitions, four league games and their US Open Cup shootout win over Minnesota United to set up the match up with Kansas City. Their last win came on May 20th against the Des Moines Menace in their second round US Open Cup game. It's a busy stretch for St. Louis as well, as this is their second of three games in six days, with another game for them at home on Friday. Not only will St. Louis potentially need to conserve legs a little bit, they'll also be playing without Bryan Gaul, the former LA Galaxy player who scored their goal in the last round against Minnesota is suspended for this game after being red carded late in the game against Minnesota. STLFC still can cause KC some problems with the pace of Jeremie Lynch up top and Charles Renken, the former US youth international, who has primarily been used as a sub, but has often been a spark for them off the bench.

While St. Louis is busy, KC will come in having not played in 10 days, since their 1-0 win over the Seattle Sounders. Sporting will need to keep one eye on the weekend game against Salt Lake on Sunday though. With the time in between though, KC should be able to put out a fairly first team lineup without much worry. Part of that reason also has to do with a simple lack of bodies still with the team recovering from injury, or in the case of Erik Palmer-Brown and Krisztian Nemeth, returning from international duty. This could be a good opportunity for someone like Chance Myers to return from injury and get time. It could also be a chance for James Ansu Rogers, who along with Myers is the only player on the roster currently who has not played a minute this year. I'm sure Peter Vermes will make a few other changes to the lineup, but with the rest, the still lingering injuries, and the priority that KC has put on the Open Cup in the past I'd expect KC to be up for this game.

SAS - Ellis - Besler - de Jong
Espinoza - Feilhaber
Zusi - Dwyer - Hallisey

Number to Remember - 2003 - That's the last time that KC qualified for the US Open Cup proper and failed to win a single game in the tournament (This does not count years where KC didn't qualify for the US Open Cup proper, 2007 and 2010).

Key Match Up - Marcel de Jong vs Charles Renken
- Renken may not start for St. Louis, but with pace and skill that previously saw him with the US youth teams and signed in Germany, he'll be a handful for KC whenever he enters into the game. Operating a lot on St. Louis' right, it'll be the responsibility of de Jong, Amadou Dia, or whoever Vermes puts out at left back to contain the winger.

PREDICTION - Even with some reserves in the lineup, KC has the talent to take care of business tomorrow against St. Louis. The expansion USL side hasn't looked out of place against USL teams, but they haven't looked above that talent level either. Minnesota took St. Louis lightly in their match up with them, and didn't capitalize on the opportunities they got (plus some good goalkeeping by Mark Pais). As long as KC doesn't come in expecting St. Louis to just "roll over" against an MLS team, this is a game that KC should be able to win going away, especially with the way that the offense has been firing over the last few games. The big thing though will be not having a slow start, allowing St. Louis to have too much of the game, or even steal a goal and sit back similar to Orlando City back in 2013. It has to be about denying them confidence, come out, grab an early goal, get them on their back foot and don't let up.

SKC - 2 (Zusi, Dwyer)
STL - 0

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