KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Sporting Kansas City understand the opportunity the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup represents.
It’s another chance for much-needed silverware, an avenue to give fringe players competitive minutes and an additional opportunity to play in front of their home fans at Livestrong Sporting Park.
Plus, the CONCACAF Champions League spot that goes to the winner is a nice prize as well.
But manager Peter Vermes also understands the strain another midweek game will put on his roster, which is why Kansas City will likely field a team that’s a mixture of starters and fringe players against the Chicago Fire PDL side on Tuesday night at LSP.
“It’s a competition that we want to win,” Vermes said. “We are looking forward to playing the game. We’re going to have to make sure that we’re smart about our rotation of players. But we are going in with every intention of winning the game.”
Based on Sporting’s current form — eight straight unbeaten in all competitions — and the gap between their opponent and themselves, which breaks down to professional players against a group of college players on summer break, a victory and a trip to the quarterfinals is realistically the only acceptable result.
Who actually takes part in earning that result is the unknown.
Goalkeeper Eric Kronberg will replace Jimmy Nielsen in between the sticks as he adds yet another competitive match to his resume, and strikers Teal Bunbury and Kei Kamara are also likely starters after having found themselves in substitute roles for the past couple weeks.
Vermes could also give Michael Harrington, Luke Sassano, Stéphane Auvray, Shavar Thomas, Scott Lorenz and Birahim Diop a chance to get on the field in order to rest Saturday’s starters. No matter what he does, there will be a handful of variables affecting his decision as he prepares Sporting for a packed summer schedule.
“Some of [the roster rotation] has to do with the opponent,” Vermes said. “Some of it has to do with the fact that we’re just logging major minutes. We have guys coming back from international duty. The other thing is who is in form at the time. There are also partnerships that are really starting to work well.”
In this season’s edition of the competition, Chance Myers and C.J. Sapong have been the catalysts for Kansas City’s successful campaign so far. Sapong scored the game-winner in a 1-0 victory against Houston and both added braces in a 5-0 demolition of New England.
But both have also put in serious minutes over the past month with Myers playing every minute of Sporting’s last seven games in the league and Sapong not far behind him in that regard. With a long road trip to Portland coming up on the weekend, that makes both players candidates to come off the bench or even sit out entirely.
But whether that happens is anyone’s guess. Vermes isn’t one to tip his hand, and, after all, no matter who ends up on the field the end goal and expectations won’t change.
“Obviously, we want to continue to strive to try to win the competition,” he said.