Open Cup Preview: Sporting KC visits Houston in quarterfinal showdown on Wednesday

Sporting Kansas City at Houston Dynamo
2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinals
Wednesday, July 18, 2018 | 7:30 p.m. CT
BBVA Compass Stadium | Houston, TX
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A pair of bitter MLS rivals will square off Wednesday in the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals when four-time champion and current titleholder Sporting Kansas City visits the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium. The pivotal matchup will kick off at 7:30 p.m. CT and stream live on as Sporting KC and Houston lock horns in the Open Cup for a fourth straight year.

All supporters 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.

Reigning Open Cup champion Sporting KC enters Wednesday on a four-game winless skid in MLS play, having dropped from first to third in the Western Conference table over the last fortnight. The club is looking to bounce back from a 3-2 defeat at the New York Red Bulls on Saturday that saw Johnny Russell score early to record his team-leading eighth goal of the campaign. Influential midfielder Roger Espinoza, who has a team-best eight assists, notched his first goal of 2018 with a 25-yard stunner that gave Sporting KC a 2-1 lead shortly after halftime, but the Red Bulls rallied behind second-half substitute Marc Rzatkowski’s late brace.

Sporting KC punched their ticket to the Open Cup quarterfinals with a pulsating 3-2 home win over FC Dallas on June 16, which produced a jaw-dropping game-winner from French midfielder Yohan Croizet in the 85th minute. The wild victory came 10 days after a 2-0 road win over rivals Real Salt Lake in the Fourth Round, sparked by Russell’s go-ahead goal and late assist to Kharlton Belmar.

The Dynamo reached the quarterfinals for the third time in four years after edging past Minnesota United FC by a 1-0 scoreline on June 18. Forward Mauro Manotas, who leads the side with 10 goals in all competitions, provided the lone goal two minutes into the second half to set up Wednesday’s date with Sporting KC. On Saturday, Houston played the Colorado Rapids to a drab 0-0 draw in the Rocky Mountains as goalkeeper Joe Willis kept his third clean sheet of the year.

Houston boasts one of the league’s most potent attacks, spearheaded by the dynamic Honduran duo of Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto. The 22-year-old Elis has 16 combined goals (9) and assists (7) this season, the sixth-best mark in MLS, and leads the league with 33 shots on target. Quioto, meanwhile, has assisted 10 goals and created 12 big chances, ranking second in MLS in both categories. Manotas, with nine MLS goals of his own, has notably scored five times in five career appearances against Sporting KC.

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. Manotas bagged a brace to put the visitors in front 2-0 before Daniel Salloi, Diego Rubio and Khiry Shelton struck in the second half to seal a dramatic comeback victory that saw Sporting KC snap an eight-game MLS winless skid against the Dynamo.

Familiarity reigns supreme in this particular fixture, as Sporting KC and Houston have battled 28 times in all competitions since the start of 2011. Manager Peter Vermes’ men own a narrow 10-9-9 edge during that stretch, which includes six meetings in the MLS Cup Playoffs and four in the U.S. Open Cup.

Wednesday marks the fourth consecutive season in which Sporting KC and Houston have crossed Open Cup paths. 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, which began in 1995: the New York Red Bulls and Philadelphia Union have also squared off in the Open Cup each year since 2015.

Sporting KC has enjoyed tremendous success in the Open Cup over the last six seasons. Since 2012, Vermes’ side 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, meaning 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.