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Sounders at Sporting KC Open Cup Final - Three Questions

It's time for more. There's certainly room.
It's time for more. There's certainly room.

Are you stuck on gameday trying to wrap your head around this thing called "Going for a historical championship?" Just think what's going through the heads of the players. Not the Seattle Sounders players, they are a bit used to this. Even though a third of the team was not in the last US Open Cup final, Sigi Schmid says they are ready.

"I think they’ve realized the importance of the Open Cup to the organization as we’ve gone through each round of the competition. At this stage of the season, they’re very aware of the importance to the team, and we have enough players with experience that can help them manage the situation and get them accustomed to what they need to do within the game itself. In terms of preparation for the game, they know what’s important. They’re telling each other what needs to get done. They’re a good, professional group. They’re going to be ready to step on the field and take care of themselves, be prepared physically as well as mentally. There’s enough experience out there on the field for us, coupled with guys who haven’t played in an Open Cup final before, that I’m not worried about it"

But for Sporting Kansas City, they are in something different. They've had a few long years of struggling to just survive as a team, eight years since they've trophied. They have different pressures. They have the pressure of the home crowd. The pressure of meeting expectations. The challenge of facing a team that has dominated this tournament for years.

Today's guide in a quick three questions is Alex from The Daily Wiz. He'll help us through the importance of the tournament for the city and the team. As always there are projected lineups as well.

SaH: What does the Open Cup mean to the Sporting KC community (fans, team, front office)?

: The Open Cup is absolutely huge for KC fans. Not only is it our first chance at silverware since 2004, it's also one of the "easiest" ways to gain entry into the CONCACAF Champions League. For the players it's also huge, especially for the guys that have been born and raised in the KC area since traditionally pro sports teams in KC haven't had much chances at championships. For a local guy to play and hopefully win in the USOC at LSP would be huge for this city.

SaH: If Espinoza isn't back and rested in time to start, how does that change Sporting's defensive posture?

: Espinoza is back from the Olypmics and in all likelihood should get the start. His performances in London has earned himself attention from Atletico Madrid and other European clubs. As much as I'd hate to lose him it's funny thinking he could wind up being our big money transfer instead of a guy like Bunbury or Sapong.

SaH: Who has been the Cup star for KC this year?

: CJ Sapong has played extremely well in the cup for KC the past two years, quickly climbing the ladder of KC's top scorers of all time in the competition. But with the big 2011 Rookie of the Year set to be out with an injury it looks as if another good cup performer, Nagamura will look to impress and take that accolade of KC's "Cup Star".

Projected lineup: 4-3-3 Nielsen; Harrington, Olum, Besler, Sinovic; Nagamura, Espinoza, Zusi; Kamara, Bunbury, Saad

* * *

tDW: How has former KC star Eddie Johnson performed in the USOC this year? Will he make a big impact in the game on Wednesday?

SaH: He hasn't been used much in the Open Cup. Just two starts and one sub appearance leading to only one goal. But that's a different time. Right now EJ is on fire. He can't be stopped and Sigi will certainly use him. I'd be stunned if he doesn't score.

tDW: Obviously Seattle has been in good form throughout the past couple of games but what should KC fans look for as a weak point in this Sounders lineup?

SaH: Seattle's defense can be weak on lateral moves in the middle. Their help defense sometimes doesn't come over quite fast enough. The other opportunity would be in quick, over the top counter attacks down the flanks behind the fullbacks. Seattle's outside backs can get forward and the coverage sometimes isn't there. Still, these are rather minor weaknesses. The team, like Sporting, has a strong defense.

tDW: With Seattle going for a 4th consecutive USOC title is the passion still there from the fans or does it feel like "just another USOC final"?

SaH: There's this thing about trophies, once you have one, you want another. And then you want it again, and then again. And then you want a different shaped piece of silverware. If a fan knows what the Open Cup is (and tens of thousands do) they want to win. They want to see history. They want to help make history.

Projected Lineup: Gspurning; Burch, Hurtado, Parke, Scott; Tiffert, Alonso; Caskey, Montero, Rosales; Johnson

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