Sporting Kansas City’s 2-0 start in U.S. Open Cup play does more than keep them in contention for the trophy and the CONCACAF Champions League berth that comes with it.
The obvious extra benefit is a shot of momentum, with Sporting riding a three-game winning streak across all competitions into Saturday’s league match against Toronto FC.
But wait, there’s more. Coming as they did over the course of a two-week MLS layoff for World Cup qualifiers, the Cup victories also helped Sporting stay sharp during the break.
“It’s been good for us to get games and stay game fit as much as we can,” left back Seth Sinovic said Thursday, during the team’s weekly news conference.
The Cup slate also helped Sporting stay on their usual training schedule, manager Peter Vermes said.
“It’s been great, because it’s kept us in the rhythm of playing a game a week,” he said. “So we haven’t had a dropoff from real competition. “
With several starters absent due to injury or international duty, the Cup matches also helped Vermes test his depth in match situations. Six players -- forwards Soony Saad and Dom Dwyer center back Konrad Warzycha and goalkeeper Jon Kempin -- made their 2012 debuts for KC during Cup play. Three others -- forward Jacob Peterson, midfielder Peterson Joseph and defensive mid Lawrence Olum -- earned their first starts of the season.
Those game minutes for key reserves are critical for an injury-bitten team facing a run of five matches - across league and Cup play -- in a 14-day stretch that starts with the Toronto game.
“It’s the experience of getting into the game and playing it the way we want to play it, with the up tempo and the pace of the game,” Vermes said. “For those guys getting that prior to this stretch of games that’s happening in the next two weeks, that’s paramount.”
Sporting host the Dayton Dutch Lions, who play in the third-tier USL Pro, in a June 26 quarterfinal match after beating USL Pro side OrlandoCity SC 3-2 on May 29 and the Colorado Rapids last week. They’ll be trying to avoid a repeat of last year’s disappointment, when they lost 2-0 to the Richmond Kickers -- also of USL Pro -- in the quarters.
“The U.S. Open Cup is a big priority of ours,” Sinovic said. “We definitely want to win it, and we definitely want to get that CONCACAF Champions League spot.”