US Open Cup overlay - Erik Palmer-Brown - Sporting Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Erik Palmer-Brown has served notice: All the hype and expectations and waiting have not been in vain.

The 20-year-old Homegrown and perennial transfer-rumor subject, who has had to fight to break into MLS’s best central defense from the moment he signed as a 16-year-old, is a huge reason that Sporting Kansas City are headed to their third U.S. Open Cup semifinal in six years.

“He’s a beast,” goalkeeper Tim Melia said after recording his third Open Cup shutout and 12th across all competitions in Tuesday’s wild 3-0 extra-time victory over defending champion FC Dallas. “His ceiling is so high, and nobody even knows how good he’s going to be yet, because he’s so young.”

Palmer-Brown put up a star-caliber performance in his first Open Cup start, recording seven clearances, four recoveries, three blocks and three interceptions. He was spot-on with his distribution as well, completing 31 of 32 passes, as Sporting advanced to take on the San Jose Earthquakes in an August semifinal.

“EPB was fantastic,” said manager Peter Vermes, whose team had to play a man down for 86 minutes after left back Seth Sinovic was sent off early for denying a goal-scoring opportunity. “His reading of where to be in the box when a lot of crosses were coming in on the ground, as well as in the air, was impeccable. He was good on the ball, he was strong when he needed to be. He won a lot of aerial duels in the box.

“He was a monster. I was very, very proud of him. And the progression that he has made as a player is tremendous. He’s playing very well.”

Given Sporting’s circumstances, Palmer-Brown is likely to be called on again when Sporting resume MLS play on July 22 at Real Salt Lake.

Matt Besler is on CONCACAF Gold Cup duty with the US national team, and Ike Opara’s status still up in the air, after a bicycle kick from Maxi Urruti that knocked him out – literally – in the 101st minute on Tuesday and sent him to a hospital for observation.

Palmer-Brown, as he has done all year long, said he’ll be ready.

“I’m confident in my play,” he told reporters after the match. “I’ve said this before, Ike and Bes and Kevin [Ellis], we have great center backs on our team. It’s a privilege to be on this team. It’s really hard to play on this team, but when you get your opportunity you have to take advantage of it.

“So when you go out there, it’s just another game. We have to go have fun and do the best you can and just take advantage of the moment.”