KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Jimmy Nielsen came to Tuesday’s pre-final news conference wearing a “We Want the Cup” T-shirt – and for Sporting Kansas City’s goalkeeper and captain, those words have an extra layer of hunger.
After tasting disappointment in his previous domestic cup finals, Nielsen is ready for his turn to celebrate a title in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
“I’ve been in three cup finals,” Nielsen said on the eve of Sporting's match with three-time defending champion Seattle (Wednesday, 9 pm ET, GolTV). “We won’t talk about the results. It’s time for me to win a cup now.”
During his lengthy tenure with Danish side Aalborg BK, where he played from 1995 to 2007, Nielsen played on Danish Cup runner-up sides in 1999, 2000 and 2004.
“It’s very tough to lose a final, especially the last two finals I’ve been in,” said Nielsen, who was also in goal when Sporting fell 2-0 at home to Houston in last year’s Eastern Conference Championship match. “I felt that I personally and the team could have done a little bit more. That’s what I told the group today: ‘Just leave everything out there tomorrow. Everything. You don’t want to sit back after the game and have the feeling that you could have left a little more out there.’”
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That pep talk was a variation of the one Nielsen made before Sporting launched their defense of the 2011 regular-season Eastern Conference title.
“Before the season starts, it’s a tradition for me that I make a speech if I’m the captain,” Nielsen said. “I remember saying to the players, ‘We’ve got a special group here. We can do something special together.' I think tomorrow night, we have the opportunity to make it a special night and make some history."
That history won’t come easy, though, against a Sounders side looking for an unprecedented fourth straight US Open Cup title.
“It’s going to be a tough challenge,” Nielsen said. “Seattle [have] won the cup three years in a row. But we’re ready.”