KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Exactly 67 days since the 2011 season began, Sporting Kansas City will finally play a match in front of friendly faces.
Sporting have spent their entire season as visitors thus far, playing nine straight away games in all competitions and compiling a disappointing 2-6-1 record. But on Wednesday, Sporting will finally come home, facing the New England Revolution for the opportunity to advance into the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup proper while also exorcising some of their road demons (8:30 pm ET, streamed live at SportingKC.com).
The game won’t be at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park or count toward their frustrating league mark, but it’s a priceless chance for Kansas City to play in front of their own fans at the Blue Valley District Activities Complex after months of being marked men wherever they took the field.
“I was talking with Davy [Arnaud] after the game [in Seattle],” defender Matt Besler said, “and he said he was so sick of the other team scoring and hearing the crowd erupting. When we score, it’s hearing your teammates erupt. We just want the feeling when we score that it’s loud and our home fans are erupting.”
Truth be told, Sporting haven’t been doing much scoring recently as it is, dropping five consecutive games in league play.
The Open Cup, however, offers somewhat of a clean slate. With a much-needed victory, Sporting would move on to the third round of the tournament proper, providing another avenue for success outside the league to buoy their confidence during a difficult time.
“We need to get back to our winning ways,” striker Teal Bunbury said. “That’s what it comes down to. The Open Cup is a great opportunity for us to get wins, kind of forget about those losses that we’ve been encountering and get something here.”
Sporting, however, will have to do without their captain. Manager Peter Vermes said Arnaud wouldn’t be available for Wednesday's match in order to prevent Arnaud's neck strain from affecting his availability for future matches.
All indications point to Sporting playing a mixture of starters and reserves as the team conserves resources for a Saturday game in Colorado and prepares for a packed schedule once LIVESTRONG Sporting Park opens on June 9. That manic schedule will also be complicated by the fact that Roger Espinoza (Honduras), Stéphane Auvray (Guadeloupe), Craig Rocastle (Grenada) and Shavar Thomas (Jamaica) will miss considerable time with their respective national teams during the upcoming Gold Cup.
Vermes’ lineup could be affected by the fact that forwards Ryan Smith and Omar Bravo each started and played more than 70 minutes on Saturday night against the Seattle Sounders as well. That game marked the first start for each after recovering from separate injuries, and Vermes’ desire to bring them back slowly will likely mean reserve league standout Chance Myers will get a chance to show what he can do alongside a few other reserve players.
“We have to [rotate the lineup],” Vermes said. “As soon as we hit our first game at home, it is game after game after game. We’re not going to be able to go with the same lineup game in and game out.”
And despite that hectic schedule, Sporting are firmly focused on moving on and adding another chance at silverware to their 2011 pursuits.
“We’re looking at this competition as something that can kind of jump start our season,” Besler said. “We can build momentum in the Open Cup, and hopefully the league will start rolling over as well.”