USOC: Comforts of home not a factor for Vermes, Sporting
If Sporting Kansas City can break out of their home slump, they'll be rewarded with the team's first championship in any competition since 2004 and a spot in the 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League.
And it's for just that reason, manager Peter Vermes said, that his team can't afford to consider Wednesday night's US Open Cup final (8 pm CT; GolTV) as a home game – even if it is being played in a sold-out Livestrong Sporting Park.
"We don't have to approach it from the perspective we're at home," Vermes said during a conference call on Tuesday. "We need to face it from the perspective it's a final."
Through nearly two months of homefield struggles in MLS play, Sporting have sounded a common refrain: Opposing teams are content to sit back, keep numbers behind the ball and play for a road point.
But in the final against three-time defending champion Seattle, there's no point to be taken. Even if the game goes to extra time – or, beyond that, penalties – someone has to come away with the trophy.
It's not coincidental, then, that three of Sporting's last four home wins have come in Cup competition.
Still, Seattle coach Sigi Schmid couldn't resist a bit of a joke during Tuesday's pre-final news conference at Livestrong Sporting Park.
"We're going to put 13 guys behind the ball," Schmid said, eliciting a chuckle from Vermes. "We'll find a way to sneak a couple of extra guys on."
Schmid's jest aside, Vermes isn't sure what to expect from the Sounders on Wednesday night – a tightly packed defense or the wide-open game Sporting would love to see.
"I think the difference in tomorrow night's game is that it's a final," said Vermes, whose team is 0-2-2 in MLS competition at home, being shut out three times over that span, since beating Toronto FC 2-0 on June 16. "Both teams are going to play. What transpires during the course of the game – I think we'll just have to try to be ready for anything that might play out on the field. Then we'll just deal with that as it comes."
Sporting goalkeeper and captain Jimmy Nielsen, a veteran of three Danish Cup finals, predicted a hard-fought final.
"It's going to be intense," Nielsen said at Tuesday's news conference. "Not a lot of cup finals are very beautiful. It's going to be very intense, but I think both teams are ready for that."
Despite the recent run of unsatisfying home results and struggles to score, Sporting consider themselves anything but an underdog on their own pitch.
"We're both good teams," forward Teal Bunbury said on Monday. "We've got respect for them, but it's going to be a battle."