Five Things is a weekly series on SportingKC.com that highlights the top storylines, players to watch and matchday programming ahead of each game throughout the season.
A pair of familiar foes renew their rivalry Wednesday when Sporting Kansas City visits the Houston Dynamo in the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals. Kickoff at BBVA Compass Stadium is slated for 7:30 p.m. CT, and the match will stream live on SportingKC.com.
Sporting KC and Houston have a habit of crossing paths in knockout-style fixtures, and Wednesday will be no exception as both sides look to take another major step toward capturing domestic silverware. Manager Peter Vermes' men are the reigning Open Cup champions, having effectively mastered the tournament for the last half-decade, while the Dynamo are seeking their first-ever Open Cup title. We examine five prevailing narratives surrounding the matchup in the space below.
1. Four Winds
Wednesday marks the fourth straight year Sporting KC and Houston will meet in the U.S. Open Cup. Sporting KC prevailed in the 2015 quarterfinals and the 2017 Round of 16, going on to win the tournament in both years, while Houston won in the 2016 Round of 16 before bowing out to eventual champion FC Dallas in the quarterfinals. Only two other teams have met in four straight editions of the Open Cup during the tournament's modern era (since 1995). The New York Red Bulls and Philadelphia Union have squared off in the Open Cup each year since 2015.
To say Sporting KC and Houston are familiar foes might be an understatement. These clubs have squared off 28 times in all competitions since the start of 2011, with Sporting KC owning a narrow 10-9-9 advantage. This stretch includes six meetings in the MLS Cup Playoffs and four in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, where the teams met in both tournaments last season. Sporting KC prevailed 2-0 at BBVA Compass Stadium in the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 before falling 1-0 at the same venue in the Western Conference Knockout Round last October.
2. Revenge in the Rematch?
These teams last met in the MLS regular season on June 23, when Sporting KC rallied from a two-goal halftime deficit to prevail 3-2 at Children's Mercy Park. Houston forward Mauro Manotas bagged a brace before Daniel Salloi, Diego Rubio and Khiry Shelton struck in the second half to seal a dramatic comeback victory.
How the result of that wild game effects both teams on Wednesday remains to be seen. Sporting KC could be pegged to have a mental edge, having staged a remarkable fightback to deliver the Dynamo a demoralizing defeat. On the flipside, Houston could be hungry for revenge after holding the upper hand for most of the game at Children's Mercy Park before collapsing late.
3. Steady the Ship
Sporting KC's recent rough patch has seen the side go winless in four straight MLS matches since beating Houston, losing three and tying one. This skid coincides with a leaky defensive spell in which Sporting KC has conceded multiple goals in five straight league games for the first time since 2001.
Vermes' side has also grown used to playing from behind. Sporting KC has conceded the first goal in six straight matches across all competitions dating back to June 16. The club was able to claw back for wins against FC Dallas and Houston, but has managed just a draw— a 2-2 stalemate with Toronto — in the four games since.
4. Owning the Open Cup
For the last six seasons, Sporting KC has ruled the U.S. Open Cup with an iron fist. Since 2012, Vermes has won the trophy three times and boasts a 17-3-3 tournament record. Those three draws account for penalty shootout victories in the 2012 and 2015 finals as well as the 2017 semifinal, which essentially means Sporting KC has prevailed in 20 of its last 23 Open Cup matches. The 2018 competition gives Sporting KC the opportunity to claim a fifth Open Cup championship, which would break a tie with the Chicago Fire and Seattle Sounders FC for the most among MLS clubs.
The eight teams still alive in this year's tournament lack no incentive to chase Open Cup glory: the winner of the 2018 edition will receive $300,000 in prize money, up from $250,000 last year, and the tournament runner-up will receive $100,000 (up from $60,000). The 2018 champion will also receive a berth in the 2019 CONCACAF Champions League, a tournament for which Sporting KC has already qualified as last year's winner.
5. No Other Watch Party
All fans are welcome to the official watch party for Wednesday's game at No Other Pub in the Kansas City Power & Light District (1370 Grand Blvd.). From 7 p.m. CT until the final whistle, No Other Pub will offer $2 off all appetizers, $4 Bud Light drafts, $5 Corona cans and $6 Till Vodka cocktails.