Oshoniyi revels Open Cup challenge
Bo Oshoniyi has been kicking around professional soccer in the USA for a decade now, including six seasons in MLS, but on Wednesday night he'll get to do something he's never done before -- take part in a cup final on the professional level.
The Kansas City Wizards will be chasing the second piece of hardware in club history in their second championship game, when they take on the Chicago Fire at Arrowhead Stadium in the final of the 2004 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. It's the sixth final in club history for the Fire -- including a loss in MLS Cup 2000 at RFK Stadium in Washington, the first honor won by the Wizards.
Oshoniyi was on the roster for that 1-0 victory on a glorious fall afternoon, but now the Poughkeepsie, N.Y. native will have a chance to directly impact the proceedings.
"It feels great. To just be a part of a final is great," said the 32-year-old Oshoniyi.
Filling in for an injured Tony Meola, Oshoniyi has been in the middle of things for the Wizards in their last six matches, including the Open Cup semifinal against San Jose in which he shutout the Earthquakes in a 1-0 victory. In MLS matches, Oshoniyi has posted two shutouts as the Wizards have gone 3-2-0 in the games he's started, with a 1.40 goals against average.
Unfortunately, the last time he was between the posts against the Fire, he and the Wizards were underwhelming in a 3-1 loss at Soldier Field.
"I just don't think we played with enough energy. They played like their season was on the line, and I don't think we did," Oshoniyi said. "We just didn't really match their intensity level, and in that result we got a pretty good butt kicking."
Tactically the Wizards will have to be cognizant of the Fire exploiting the flanks with raw speed, an area the Fire abused in their triumph in Chicago. However, it may be pure determination and glory that rule the evening Wednesday night as the two clubs fight for the Dewar Trophy, the oldest team sport trophy in the United States at 92 years old, and the $100,000 prize money that goes to the winner.
"Ever since I've been here, I think it's been a big deal for us to do well in the Open Cup. Just having it be the trophy [named for Wizards owner Lamar Hunt], we want to bring it home," said Oshoniyi.
Hunt, the Wizards' benevolent investor/operator, was in the locker room Saturday night to celebrate the 1-0 league victory against San Jose.
"He tries to be [involved]," Oshoniyi said. "He hasn't been able to get to as many games as he's wanted to. [But] he stays pretty close and involved in what we're doing."
What the Wizards did Saturday was typical Wizards soccer. Play smart, stout defense and put away at least one opportunity.
"We've settled down now. Other than the Colorado game (a 3-1 loss in Denver on Sept. 10), we're starting to figure out what we need to do defensively collectively as a team. It doesn't matter who we play against, defensively we're a solid unit," Oshoniyi said.
Coming off the playoff intensity that Saturday's contest had throughout, the Wizards should be mentally prepared for a final, even in a tournament where the opponent comes in as holders (also winning on the road last year) and having claimed the Open Cup championship three times in club history.
"I think the guys are fired up and ready for that challenge," said Oshoniyi.
Robert Rusert is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.