Sporting KC, Red Bulls expect fast-paced, press-heavy US Open Cup final


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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – You know the stereotypes about cup finals: They’re cautious. They’re plodding. Teams focus too much on not conceding and not enough on imposing their wills.

But when two teams that love to press as much as Sporting Kansas City and the New York Red Bulls meet, fans might be able to expect a more aggressive approach to Wednesday night’s US Open Cup title match at Children's Mercy Park (9 pm ET; ESPN2).

“The way both teams play is in our DNA,” Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch told reporters before his team’s training session on Tuesday. “So there may be game plan adjustments, but there won’t be, I think, a departure from who we are or what we do. So I think you can expect to see two teams that go after each other, two teams that make the game fast, two teams that want to command the game.

“So something’s got to give, and it’ll be interesting to see, now, which team’s able to establish themselves on a higher level.”

Marsch’s take largely echoed Sporting manager Peter Vermes’ remarks earlier in the day.

“I would say that I think the game will be fast-paced,” Vermes said. “If you look at both teams and the way they play – yeah, I think there will be a good pace to the game. But I also think at some point, the game will settle in, and then all of a sudden your play starts to come out and both teams will start dealing with the game, based on where it is and how teams are playing.

“So it’s going to be all over the place a little bit at times, but I think that’s how finals can be.”

And if Wednesday’s match does go long? That’s in both team’s Open Cup DNA this year, too.

New York advanced past the Philadelphia Union on penalties in the round of 16, and needed extra time to finally end USL side FC Cincinnati’s Cinderella run with a 3-2 victory in the semifinals. Sporting, meanwhile, played down a man for almost all of regulation before winning a wild 3-0 quarterfinal over FC Dallas in extra time, then needed penalties to get past the San Jose Earthquakes in the semifinal.

“That’s what cups are like,” Marsch said. “You often survive by the hair on your chin. It often requires penalties, extra time. You would have thought that a draw against a second-division team would be an easy draw for us, but what a tough game that was.”

Vermes’ team has plenty of experience with long knockout games – especially in finals – in recent years, as well. Their 2012 and 2015 Open Cup titles were both won on penalties after 1-1 draws through 120 minutes, as was the 2013 MLS Cup championship.

“I don’t game plan to go to penalties,” Vermes said. “That’s not what I try to do. The good thing is that our concentration level has been good in our games, and the guys maintained it all the way through to those points. It’s a lot of pressure when you get into penalty kicks, and the guys do a very good job of keeping their head. So we’ve been pretty successful at that aspect, but our objective is not to go to penalties, that’s for sure.” 

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