2015 U.S. Open Cup Final

Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes:

On his thoughts ahead of Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup Final:
“I think this is a competition we were obviously very interested in getting to the Final and hopefully, possibly winning at the end. The guys have obviously taken it very seriously like I think every team does in the league, and we’re looking for an exciting game. We understand that we’re going into the lion’s den in Philadelphia. It’s not going to be easy. Playing finals away from home are difficult, so that’s a tough one. We realize it’s going to be difficult, but at the same time we’re up for the challenge.”

On the potential for his team to win a third trophy in four years:
“Obviously it would be an accomplishment, but I guess from our perspective we’re nothing thinking of it that way. We’re just thinking of it as the competition that’s in front of us and the opportunity that’s in front of us. Obviously being able to win another U.S. Open Cup would be fantastic for the team, the club and the fans. That’s the focus.”

On how Sporting Kansas City prepares for road games in MLS will prepare them for the U.S. Open Cup Final in Philadelphia:
“We’re still trying to work on our game plan at the moment, so I don’t know what we’re going to do. I think in this league one of the things you have to be able to do is play away from home. Being the fact that the game is being played this late in the season, I think both teams have a pretty good understanding of how each team plays, so I don’t think there’s too many surprises that can be brought out by either team. We understand the environment we’re going into, we understand we’re away from home, we understand there’s a lot of things in their favor. We have to be smart around that, but at the same time you also know it’s not easy to win a Final at home because of the expectation you’re in front your own crowd and everything else. That’s a big part of this, and so you just understand it’s going to be a big game.”

On Jim Curtin saying he looks to what he’s done in Kansas City as a model for what he’s working towards in Philadelphia:
“I’ve had a chance to talk to Jim after a couple games and at the combine and stuff. I know Jim from when we played against each other in the league and obviously he was a very smart player on the field and I think he’s taken the same way in his coaching. That’s a very nice compliment. , and at the same time I know their staff pretty well and they’ve done a very good job there. Like all our clubs, it takes time to build and they’ve put themselves in a good position. They were in this position last year as well and here they are in the same position. They can look right at home and feel very comfortable that they’ve done a very good job thus far and that they’re building something special there. They can be very proud of that.”

On going up against former Sporting Kansas City forward C.J. Sapong:
“The first thing is that C.J. has been a big part of this club in the past. He’s a great guy and we all still have a great relationship with him, and there’s no doubt that all of us are happy for him and how this year has progressed. He’s gotten better as the year’s gone on. From that perspective I think all of us are very happy for him - we just don’t want him to be good in this game. Outside of that, everything else is great. He’s a great guy, he’s been a big part of our history and a tremendous person. There’s not a lot that all of us don’t know about each other. There really won’t be any surprises, even from him as well, even though he was here and a part of our club. At the same time, he’s there now and we’re here. It’s a different world. You’ve got to get ready for it on our side and I’m sure he does as well.”

Sporting Kansas City captain Matt Besler

On what it would mean for Sporting Kansas City to lift the U.S. Open Cup trophy on Wednesday night:
“Like Peter said, we put a lot of emphasis on this tournament at the beginning of the season. We wanted to put ourselves in the position we’re in right now, with the opportunity to win a trophy. That’s what we set out to accomplish at the beginning of the season and we have that opportunity in front of us on Wednesday night. I know the players are looking forward to it. We also understand it’s going to be a difficult task because Philly is playing very well right now. They’re playing at home, they’re going to drive the game at us and it’s something we’re going to have to be ready for.”

On the strong relationship between the club and supporters:
“That relationship is special and it means a lot to us as players because we feel like it doesn’t happen like that at every club. We’re all fortunate that it does at Sporting Kansas City. We all feel the effects of it. When we go on the road and see so many traveling supporters, it does have an effect on how we play and gives us an extra boost. We can feel the support of our fans no matter where we play. There’s been a buildup to this game and we hear there’s going to be traveling fans as well and we want to make sure that we do everything we can to win the Cup for us, for the club and the fans.”

On Sporting Kansas City resting starters in Sunday’s game against Seattle Sounders FC:
“I think it was much needed. One of the things to think about is that it wasn’t necessarily about the rest, it was more about us getting into a rhythm of a normal week. We’ve approached it how we’ve been approaching it all season long. We’ve had a full week of training, we’ve been doing exactly what we typically do – how we approach training and getting a day off in the middle of the week. It’s basically just what the guys are used to and how we’ve been doing it all season long. The guys will definitely be comfortable in that and we’ll be ready to play.”

On what the prospect of a CONCACAF Champions League berth means:
“I think right now with where we’re at with our team, certainly everybody understands that a Champions League berth is at stake. However, right now we really just want to win a trophy. Winning a championship is something that can never be taken away from you and will always bring a group together, no matter how many years have passed. That’s really what’s at the front of our minds, trying to win a championship and bringing another trophy back to Kansas City. All the other stuff that goes along with it, with the Champions League berth, those are all added bonuses, but honestly right now there hasn’t been a whole lot of thought about that stuff.”

On going against former Sporting Kansas City forward C.J. Sapong:
“We have a lot of respect for C.J. and we really enjoyed having him on our team the last couple seasons. Like Peter said, we were happy to see how successful his season has gone. We understand he’s playing with a lot of confidence and he’s definitely a handful up top. We’re going to have to really be locked in to get a result against him. There definitely will be some focus around him, but at the same time there will be focus around all their other players. It’s not just C.J. – it is Sebastien Le Toux and Tranquillo Barnetta on the other side. They have a lot of weapons that can hurt you so we’re going to have to be ready for everything.” 

Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin

His thoughts on Wednesday’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final:
“First off, congratulations to Sporting Kansas City, a very good team in our league, a team that has a proud history of winning trophies, a head coach in Peter Vermes that, as a young coach myself, I aspire to be like and to build something like he’s done in Kansas City. We had some heartbreak in this competition last year after the game against Seattle where we came inches away from winning—a ball off the post in the 90thminute. We talked about getting back to the Final and it’s very easy to talk about things, it’s a whole other thing to actually do it. From that standpoint I’m very proud of my guys. We obviously have one more game that we need to win to achieve our goal. There’s only two trophies in this country that you can lift – the MLS Cup and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. It’s a competition I take very seriously from when I was a player in Chicago and have passed that on to the guys here in Philadelphia. We’re very focused, ready to go, excited for the match. It’ll be a great game at PPL Park. It looks like the weather will hopefully be agreeable. There may be some rain in the forecast, but as a team we will do everything we can to give our city, the Sons of Ben and our fans their first trophy.”

On the decision to rest players in Saturday’s MLS match at New England Revolution:
“It was a decision we weighed all the variables with: the turf in New England, the fact that this was on a shortened field due to a concert that was taking place in New England, and different guys in different modes of fitness and form coming off of injury. We played a lineup that I still believed could go out and get a result, and to their credit they did that. They got a point against what I consider the top team in the Eastern Conference in New England. The message to the group was that we’re a team. No matter who goes on the field, we believe we can get a result and our guys did that. There was a lot of discussion and thinking of being fresh for the final. We did have an eye on Wednesday obviously. A lot of the guys that were on the field against New England have played in 10-plus starts in MLS.  They’re all guys that have been in big games in MLS and we were happy with the group we put out there. We were almost able to steal the game at the end, but again, we got a point and kept what are small playoff hopes alive and also got guys 45 minutes that’ll likely be starting on Wednesday. They got it out of it healthy, which was key. I learned a lot about our group. There will be decisions that will need to be made for next year, and a lot of them gave a very strong showing of themselves against New England. Like I said, we’re a team, we’re always constantly evaluating and testing ourselves. Now we’ve gotten through that game with a draw, which is good, and the full focus the second that game ended was to look towards Kansas City and Wednesday night.  We even brought our entire group out to New England and had some fitness exercises after the game on New England’s turf. They were gracious enough to let us run a small training session afterwards. The focus literally after that final whistle blew was shifted towards Kansas City.”

On the difficulty of picking his starting goalkeeper for the Final:
“It’s a huge decision. It’s one I’ll have to make. We gave John and Andre, if you’ve noticed in the past, six games or so. They’ve gotten an equal share, with Andre if you add up his Jamaica games in there. We wanted to get a fair look at both of them. It’s a good situation because both of them have played well; John recently in Houston and gets a shutout, and Andre played what was a pretty darn impressive performance against New England. There’s a big decision to make there and I’m confident that both of them can get us a win, whichever one I decide. Like I said, we are a team. Everybody plays a role in getting us to the final. The team we put on the field will be our best XI that we have on our team for that day to win a game. The same thing goes for picking your seven reserves -- also a difficult task that Peter will have to do as well – weighing all the variables, the fact that only five internationals can play, those things come up. We’ll pick an 18 that can get a win on Wednesday night.”

On comparing the 2014 Final to the 2015 Final:
“Last year I think we surprised people by getting there. I think there was a little bit of a ‘happy to be there’ mindset against Seattle, which was a pretty darn good team when you look back at the group they had. We gave an admirable performance on the day but came up a little bit short. Any good team I’ve been on has gone through one of those difficult moments before they lift a trophy. The focus this year has been dialed in on getting back, and now that we’re back the guys know what they need to do. We’ve had a ‘do your job’ approach in this competition. We’ve had some crazy games – the Rochester PKs, the short-handed for 60 minutes and down a goal against D.C., to down a man for about 80 minutes against New York and hanging on for penalty kicks – we’ve been through a heck of a lot this year and the next step is winning the Final.”

On his thoughts about Sporting KC’s team:
“Benny Feilhaber is an MVP candidate for a reason this year. He’s a guy I respect a great deal – he can make a final pass, can score a goal – he’s a difference maker. Right up the middle of the field – Dom Dwyer, Benny Feilhaber, the underrated Paulo Nagamura, who’s just a winner, Mustivar has an element in there and then Besler at the back. Right up the spine they’re very strong. They’re a good team.You know how they’re going to line up. You know what a Kansas City team looks like. They’re going to fight and claw and scratch for everything. Peter Vermes won’t allow anything less than that. They’re very disciplined and it’ll be a very difficult challenge Wednesday, but one we’ll be up for.”

On if winning Wednesday’s Final would make the 2015 season a successful one for the Philadelphia Union:
“Yes. I can confidently say yes. No one in our technical staff or player side is happy with how the regular season went for us. At the same time, we’ve taken this competition seriously. If we do lift our first trophy and bring that to the organization and all that entails, there’s no way you can’t deem it a success. Yes there are still things we know we have to fix and work and improve on, but things are in motion. We are getting better. We’re a young group that’s improving. Things are happening off the field as well that are drastically improving the club, and we’re not as far off as it might look in the standings this year. I think we can make a few adjustments in the offseason and be right up there, but to win a trophy in a year, you can’t deem that year not successful. It’s not possible.”

On his memories of lifting the Dewar Cup with the Chicago Fire in 2003 and 2006:
“I remember the top was removable, so that spent a lot of time on top of people’s heads and a lot of adult beverages were being consumed. I have good memories from that. Again, there’s only two trophies in this country that truly matter: MLS Cup and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. It’s special anytime you can raise it, especially in front of your home fans is always a little more special and we have that opportunity here in Philly. In Chicago, those were some good teams. The 2006 Final was a good game, a 3-1 game where we held on and got that final goal late. There’s no better feeling than lifting a trophy with a bunch of guys. You can’t really explain it, you can’t describe it. I can’t put words to it, I just know that it’s forever. It’s permanent, and the bond you have between guys that do it, when you look across the room at them, you know you’ve accomplished something special and it lasts forever. That 2006 team was by far not even close to the best team I played on, but we won a trophy together, so you’re still tight with all those guys. I’d say the same thing about 2003. We had a very, very good team, but 2001 was easily the best team in Chicago I played with, but the bond isn’t as tight with that group as it is with 2003 and 2006. It sounds cliché, but winning a trophy together bonds guys for the rest of your life.”

On the last time a goalkeeper that won the Final played in all of a team’s U.S. Open Cup matches being Chicago Fire goalkeeper Matt Pickens in 2006: 

“The competition as it moves on further and further, some teams use it for different reasons. Some use it for young players, some use it to experiment and tinker. I always use it for my best XI and that’s what we’ll do in this competition. Matt Pickens obviously had a great run for us in that tournament. I’d also comment that I started and played in the games that got us there and in then in the Final I came off the bench. Coaches make decisions to win games, and you have one opportunity to win a final. We’ll field our top team. We’ll field our best XI guys and the guys we believe can go out there and do a job. Everything during the buildup happens for a reason. Everybody plays a role in terms of getting you to the Final, and from there you have to select the best team that will give you a chance to win.”

Philadelphia Union forward Sebastien Le Toux

On what would it mean for the players to lift the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup:
“Last year we missed it in the final. We’re all very motivated to bring a trophy to this franchise. It’s a moment for us to mark the history for this team and it’s what we want to do. We’re going to do everything we can to make it happen. We now have Kansas City in front of us. We respect them, but we know we can win.”

On the team’s mentality for this year’s Final after losing in the 2014 Final: 
“Last year is extra motivation. I remember when I was in Seattle we lost twice in the Semifinal with the USL team and the next year with just a few of the guys from the USL we win the Final. It was extra motivation. We didn’t want to have this trophy going away from us for a third time. With this team we talk a lot between us that we have to do everything we can to get the trophy. Last year was a pretty hard moment for all of us because we wanted to have the trophy for our fans, and now we have a second chance at it. When life gives you a second chance, you need to give everything and I hope that’s what we do on Wednesday."