2017 US Open Cup Semifinals live video: Sporting KC, Earthquakes on different paths to Final

Posted by | August 2, 2017

Children's Mercy Park in Kansas City, KS. Photo: Sporting KC

Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, KS. Photo: Sporting KC

San Jose Earthquakes (MLS) at Sporting Kansas City (MLS)
Wednesday, Aug. 9 – 8:30 p.m. EST
Children’s Mercy Park – Kansas City, KS
IF KC wins … they will host FC Cincinnati / NY Red Bulls winner
IF SJ wins … they will play at FC Cincinnati / NY Red Bulls winner

BROADCAST: Online video (above)

Links to full #USOC2017 coverage located at the bottom

If you had to pick an image to describe the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinal match-up between Sporting Kansas City and the San Jose Earthquakes, you would be hard pressed to find a better one than two trains approaching each other on the same track from opposite directions.

On the one hand, Sporting Kansas City has been at or near the top of the MLS Western Conference standings for most of the season. They’re currently on a nine-match unbeaten streak and are looking for their third Open Cup title in the last six seasons and the fourth overall. In fact, if they are able to reach the championship game, they would join a select club as just the 15th team in the history of the tournament to play in four finals.

On the other, the San Jose Earthquakes, currently sixth in the conference standings, have had more than their share of struggles this season. It was bad enough the Quakes fired head coach Dominic Kinnear and assistant John Spencer at the end of June, although the timing was a bit odd, coming the day after the club’s 2-1 home win over Real Salt Lake. The Quakes are also in search of their first Open Cup final appearance.

This will be the third time the clubs will have played this season. In the first match at Children’s Mercy Park on March 18, it was an own goal by Quakes goalkeeper David Bingham that was the difference in Sporting KC’s 2-1 victory. That error in the 89th minute proved to be too much to overcome, even as San Jose midfielder Florian Jungwirth slotted home in second half stoppage time.

Latif Blessing (right) and Benny Failhaber of Sporting Kansas City celebrate during a 3-1 win over FC Dallas in the 2017 US Open Cup. Photo: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports | Sporting KC

Latif Blessing (right) and Benny Failhaber of Sporting Kansas City celebrate during a 3-1 win over FC Dallas in the 2017 US Open Cup. Photo: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports | Sporting KC

In the return match at Avaya Stadium on June 17, a depleted Quakes side managed a scoreless draw, despite getting outshot 10-0. Benny Feilhaber hit the post and Cordell Cato cleared a Roger Espinoza header off the line.

It would also be fair to say both teams will have to come up with different game plans from that last tilt. Sporting KC is without the recently-traded Dom Dwyer, while the four San Jose regulars who were either injured or suspended for the last game (Florian Jungwirth, Darwin Ceren, Marco Urena and Fatai Alashe) should all be available for selection by interim head coach Chris Leitch.

While Dwyer was Sporting KC’s all-time leading scorer in the Open Cup with six (including four in one match against FC Dallas in 2015), they are not without proven ability in the tournament. Soony Saad is the current active leader with four goals in Open Cup play.

San Jose, on the other hand, does have their all-time leading scorer when it comes to this competition. Forward Chris Wondolowski has six goals in the competition, including four in a Quakes kit.

One factor that cannot be ignored has to be the home-field advantage enjoyed by Sporting KC. They currently own a 21-match home unbeaten streak in league play, their last loss coming against DC United on May 27, 2016.

Their luck at home in Open Cup play is just as good. From 2011 (Children’s Mercy Park’s first season) to 2015, they played 14 of their 16 Cup matches at home. Both of those road matches were victories over the Philadelphia Union (2-0 in 2012 semifinal, 7-6 in penalties in 2015 final after 1-1 draw). In those home matches, they are 9-3-2 (2-0 in PKs), including winners of their last six. Last season, they played both matches on the road and fell to Houston in Round 5.

Danny Hoesen of the San Jose Earthquakes strikes a pose after scoring the third goal of the game (his second of the tournament) against the LA Galaxy in the Quarterfinals of the 2017 US Open Cup. Photo: ISI Photos | San Jose Earthquakes

Danny Hoesen of the San Jose Earthquakes strikes a pose after scoring the third goal of the game (his second of the tournament) against the LA Galaxy in the Quarterfinals of the 2017 US Open Cup. Photo: ISI Photos | San Jose Earthquakes

One part of that home-field success is Sporting KC’s fanbase. In league play, they have sold out Children’s Mercy Park in 99 straight matches. The Open Cup is no exception. Sporting KC also is the current Modern Era record-holder for semifinal attendance. In 2015, a 3-1 victory over Real Salt Lake, 16,117 fans came through the gates.

San Jose, however, has found success in Kansas City. On Aug. 19, 2015, San Jose entered then-Sporting Park and came away with a 5-0 victory. Chris Wondolowski had a brace in that game. Shea Salinas, Quincy Amarikwa and David Bingham are other current members of the club who played in that match.

The Quakes are on a historic Cup run as far as their club is concerned. Entering the 2017 competition, San Jose had never beaten an MLS side in tournament play. They were 0-7-3 (0-3 in PKs). This season, they’ve beaten reigning MLS Cup champion Seattle, as well as their rivals to the south, the Los Angeles Galaxy. This is also the first tournament in which they’ve won three games. In their only other semifinal appearance, they only needed two wins to advance to the final four.

To reach this point in the competition, San Jose defeated the San Francisco Deltas (NASL) 2-0 at home, Seattle Sounders 2-1 at home and the Los Angeles Galaxy 3-2 at home.

Sporting KC defeated Minnesota United 3-0 at home, Houston 2-0 on the road and FC Dallas 3-0 (AET) at home.

The players to watch are pretty self-explanatory at this point. Sporting KC will need to keep an eye on Wondolowski. At 34, he’s turning into the wily veteran who knows how defenses will attempt to play him and how to beat them.

Sporting KC’s defense is the home side’s X-factor. They have yet to give up a goal in 300 minutes of play in this year’s tournament. Goalkeeper Tim Melia is having a great year and has 12 clean sheets across all competitions this season.

If Sporting Kansas City advance to the final, they will host the winner of the match between the New York Red Bulls and FC Cincinnati at Children’s Mercy Park. If San Jose were to prevail, they would travel to the winner of the other semifinal, which will be played on Tuesday, Aug. 15, at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati.

San Jose Earthquakes Open Cup records
Overall: 14-10-6 (3-3 PK) | Home: 7-5-2 (1-1 PK) | Away: 7-5-3 (2-1 PK) | vs. MLS: 2-7-3 (0-3 PK)
Last entry: 2016 (Lost 2-0 at Portland Timbers of MLS in Round 4)
Best finish: 2004 Semifinals (Lost 1-0 at Kansas City Wizards of MLS)
Leading goalscorer: Chris Wondolowski & Danny Hoesen – 2

How they got here
Round 4: 2-0 home win vs. San Francisco Deltas (NASL)
Round 5: 2-1 home win vs. Seattle Sounders FC (MLS)
Quarterfinals: 3-2 home win vs. Los Angeles Galaxy (MLS)

Sporting Kansas City Open Cup records
Overall: 25-13-5 (3-2 PK) | Home: 18-7-1 (1-0 PK) | Away: 7-6-4 (2-2 PK) | vs. MLS: 11-8-2 (2-0 PK)
Last entry: 2016 (Lost 3-1 at Houston Dynamo of MLS in Round of 16)
Best finish: 2004, 2012, 2015 champions
Leading goalscorer: Four players tied with 2 (Blessing, Fernandes, Opara, Salloi)

How they got here
Round 4: 4-0 home win vs. Minnesota United (MLS)
Round 5: 2-0 road win at Houston Dynamo (MLS)
Quarterfinals: 3-0 (AET) home win vs. FC Dallas (MLS)

#USOC2017 coverage:

Wondolowski’s brace gives Earthquakes first USOC win over rival Galaxy
Inspired Sporting KC explode in OT to dethrone FC Dallas
BWP scores late winner as Red Bulls edge 10-man Revolution
Djiby Fall’s historic winner, FC Cincinnati’s historic defense blanks Miami FC, 1-0

2017 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup schedule, results
2017 US Open Cup Round 1 review
2017 US Open Cup Round 2 review
2017 US Open Cup Round 3 review
2017 US Open Cup Round 4 review
2017 US Open Cup Round of 16 review
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2017 TheCup.us Player of the Round winnners
2017 US Open Cup bracket (TheCup.us)
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A map of all 99 entries for the 2017 US Open Cup
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