“I think you will see some good attractive soccer on both sides,” said Ben Speas after training on Tuesday on the eve of their US Open Cup matchup with MLS side, Sporting KC. “We like to keep the ball on the ground and play through the lines and Sporting does that too.”
Minnesota United FC vs. Sporting Kansas City
USOC Fourth Round Match
Wednesday, June 15 — 7 p.m. CT
National Sports Center | Blaine, MN
Assistant coach Ian Fuller, who is very familiar with Sporting from his time as an assistant at Orlando, agrees with Speas. “I know Sporting really well. I coached against Kansas City last season with Orlando and I worked with them as our affiliate three or four years ago. So I know Peter Vermes and his staff,” said Fuller, who said Sporting will come out on the attack just like Minnesota will. “They take this competition very seriously. They rarely put out what we might call a second squad. They know the meaning of the competition and they’ve won three US Open Cups. Plus there is significant now with an automatic [CONCACAF] Champions League spot. That brings a lot of notoriety and money to your team. I think the players know that and take that very seriously.”
“I think you will see some good attractive soccer on both sides. We like to keep the ball on the ground and play through the lines and Sporting does that too.”
”While both teams may come out on the attack, head coach Carl Craig also warned his team about errors which plagued them in the early season. “When we went to Portland for the Simple Invitational it was evident we were miles away,” explained Craig. “What we found out in Portland, regardless of our lack of preparation and fitness, when we made stupid errors we were punished. We can expect the same on Wednesday night. We have no excuses to stand behind now. We have to go for it.”
“What I told the lads this morning is almost everyone on this team has played in MLS or even higher levels. It’s a good team and generally higher than what we play on a weekly basis. The fact that we didn’t take care of business in the spring season gives us all a chance for a little redemption to get a positive result and then another game. It will be difficult to win tomorrow and it will be even more difficult to win the Cup, but that’s what we are here for. We will give it our best shot.“
United defender Brent Kallman also talked about mistakes. “If you don’t close the ball down quick they’ve got guys that can hurt you. [Dom] Dwyer has really good movement and he gets good service everywhere on the field. We have to stay disciplined and be aware. You can’t just rely on your athleticism. If you do, good players are going to punish you. So you have to be reading the game. You have to be in tune. You’ve got to be focused,” said a motivated Kallman.
Read: US Open Cup Match Preview: Minnesota United vs. Sporting Kansas City
Speas elaborated on his role on the team as an attacking midfielder and distributor of the ball. “My job on this team is to make things happen in the attacking half of play. Obviously, that means receiving balls from whoever is behind me and playing them out to the wingers and Christian. Of course, scoring goals is the hardest thing. If we can make that connection and get goals then there’s a good chance we will get results.”
Referencing the fact that Sporting will be without the services of their two designated players, Matt Besler, and Graham Zusi, Speas said, “They may have a couple of guys gone but they’re still a great team. It will be a tough test but we’re at home and we need to use that. I think we can show that we’ve grown and think we can play with them.
Fuller also spoke highly of Kansas City’s midfield saying, “Centrally they are really strong. [Roger] Espinoza, [Paulo] Nagamura and [Benny] Feilhaber are probably three of their most talented players and they are all in central midfield. So it will be a challenge. But it’s one we face weekly. We just have to prepare for it a bit differently. Obviously playing at home will help us.”
“If you don’t close the ball down quick they’ve got guys that can hurt you. We have to stay disciplined and be aware. You can’t just rely on your athleticism. If you do, good players are going to punish you. So you have to be reading the game. You have to be in tune. You’ve got to be focused.”
While Minnesota has had continuous league games and an away midweek USOC match to boot, Sporting had several weeks off as a Copa America Centenario break. Minnesota could have also used some time off, especially when the team had many injuries piling up. However, players are healing up, getting back on the field and the team look to be getting their early Spring Season form back as well. The Loons won’t be rusty, that’s for sure and could actually use that momentum to slingshot them into this midweek USOC matchup with the MLS side.
“It is a short week for us,” confessed Fuller, who said the players had Sunday off and returned to training on Monday and Tuesday. “Our staff had planned for this prior, so our game plan was already in place. Them having a two-and-a-half week break might change things for them. But we can just concentrate on what we do. There are always challenges to get your guys back after a short week like we’ve had. They’ve got quality all over the field, and experience as well that all know Peter’s system. So it will be nothing short of a challenge but one that we look forward to. We’ve got a break after this so we will go all in.”
Jeff Rueter contributed to this report.