Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Match Day USOC: Return to Action

The Copa America Centenario is officially over for Kansas City as they'll take the field tomorrow against Minnesota United in the fourth round of the US Open Cup. After almost two weeks off since Kansas City's 0-0 draw with the LA Galaxy, Sporting will try to begin to right the ship after a poor run of form in league has seen them win just once in 11 league games. It won't be easy to do against a strong Minnesota United team that is good at home and certainly has an eye towards MLS next year.

United had been having their own league struggles this season, finishing the spring NASL season with a 5-4-1 record good for fourth place in the spring. Minnesota though closed the season out with a 3-1 win at home over Miami, and were 4-1 at home in the spring nine of their 16 goals in those five games. Kansas City will have to be very mindful of Christian Ramirez, Minnesota's all time leading scorer, he finished tied for second in the league in scoring in the spring season. Minnesota also has its share of players with MLS experience like Danny Cruz and experience like Aaron Pitchkolan on the bench. One player KC won't have to worry about is on loan winger, Bernardo Anor who fractured his ankle and will now miss most of the rest of the season.

Kansas City at least went into the break with a bit of a high, stopping the high powered LA offense in their last league game, but KC desperately needs to get the goal scoring going. The club continues to average less than a goal a game this season and while they've created a number of shots they're just not putting enough of them on goal and testing goalkeepers. The style that KC's played with Dom Dwyer in the middle all alone hasn't worked out, so hopefully coming out of this break Peter Vermes has tried to find a way to get Dwyer more support offensively. With Kansas City off until Sunday this weekend we may see quite a few first team players start tomorrow, but do expect some rotation, Vermes had mentioned getting players time with the Swope Park Rangers if they were going to play against Minnesota, he then loaned just one player, Alec Kann to the USL side. Elsewhere, Soni Mustivar has returned and could jump right into the mix since he didn't play a minute in the Copa America, but Nuno Coelho looks set to miss another game for KC.

Hallisey - Dwyer - Mapp
Quintilla - Espinoza
Sinovic - Ellis - Opara - Myers

Number to Remember - 3 - This is just the third away game for Kansas City in their last 18 US Open Cup games. To be fair, KC has won both of those away games, both in Philadelphia, but KC doesn't have a ton of experience playing on the road in this competition, especially against lower level sides, the last time KC did that was against another Minnesota side, the Minnesota Stars in 2009.

Key Match Up - Kevin Ellis vs Christian Ramirez - While former teammate Miguel Ibarra got most of the talk, Ramirez has had his fair share of fans that feel that the forward deserves a call up by Jurgen Klinsmann to the full national team. He's going to be a handful to deal with for Kansas City's centerbacks tomorrow. Ellis will likely get to have many of the responsibilities with him for Kansas City.

PREDICTION - I hope the team used the break well and now have their heads on straighter. They've put themselves into a big hole in league play that they need to start to climb their way out of. With that hill to climb and the Champions League coming up I've seen more than one person suggest just punting in the US Open Cup and focus directly on league play until the Champions League starts and then dividing your focus to multiple competitions. I'm not of that mindset, the Open Cup is still the easiest way to win a trophy, and I love me some trophies. That said I'm not sure that KC has the offense to pull this one out. Until KC shows me otherwise on the field I'm not confident in this team and their ability to win on the road against a strong Minnesota team that has many players that still remember the last time the two teams met a couple years ago. This year I think we see the reverse of that scoreline and KC goes out at the first hurdle.

SKC - 0
MN - 2 (Ramirez, Speas)

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