Wednesday night, the Houston Dynamo will start their quest for the U.S. Open Cup when they take on Sporting Kansas City in College Station, Texas. For both squads, this game is part of a play-in to reach the final round of qualifiers for the Open Cup. In the past, the Dynamo have automatically qualified for the Open Cup due to finishing well at the end of the regular season in Major League Soccer's standings. But this season, Houston has been forced to travel the long, hard road of qualification.
The winner of tonight's match will take on the winner of the match between the New England Revolution and D.C. United/Philadelphia Union.
The Open Cup is always a fun competition to follow because most teams use it as a chance to play some of the younger players and back-ups. Because of this, fans should expect to see a Dynamo line-up dramatically different from that of the first three MLS games.
"The Open Cup's a trophy many of the guys haven't won," said Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear. "We have to be mindful of playing three games in eight days, so it may not be the same lineup that played against New York; but we'll get some guys time and work hard to get the win."
It's hard to lock down a definitive line-up but there are a few players who are expected to feature.
Tyler Deric, Houston's number-two keeper is likely to start between the posts for the Dynamo. In front of him should be Mike Chabala, Jordan Graye, Eddie Robinson, and Kofi Sarkodie, all defenders who have seen limited minutes so far this season.
The midfield four is a bit of a guessing game; Brad Davis, Lovel Palmer, and Geoff Cameron all seem likely to be rested or starting on the bench. Filling in for them could be young guns Alex Dixon, Danny Cruz, and Josue Soto. Cruz has mainly been limited to substitute's appearances this season, and Dixon saw his first minutes of the season at the end of the past weekend's game in New York. The big midfield news for the Dynamo is that Colin Clark, who was acquired in a trade deal with the Colorado Rapids for Brian Mullan, could be set to get his first start and first minutes for the Dynamo. Over the past few weeks, Clark returned to full training with the team and seems be fully recovered from his knee injury.
With the absence of Brian Ching, who is out with a rib injury, rookie Will Bruin and Dynamo newcomer Jason Garey seem the likely starters for Houston. Dynamo head coach could opt to play Cam Weaver, in an effort to boost the forward's confidence following a goal and positive play against the Red Bulls.
- The Dynamo are 5-4-1 all-time in Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play, reaching the tournament semifinals in 2006 and 2009. Houston is 3-1 at home in Open Cup play, including a 2006 win at the Carl Lewis Track & Field Complex.
- Houston leads the all-time series with Kansas City 6-2-3, including a 2-0 win in the 2007 Western Conference championship game. Kansas City's 4-3 comeback win against the Dynamo last September broke a nine-game Houston unbeaten streak in the series.
- Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall has a 3-2 Open Cup record with five shutouts over the last two years, including a club-record-tying 10 saves in the 2009 semifinals against Seattle. Midfielder Geoff Cameron and defender Eddie Robinson are the club's leading Open Cup scorers among active players with two each; former Dynamo forwards Alejandro Moreno and Dominic Oduro each scored three goals in Open Cup play.
- Midfielder Alex Dixon made his professional debut on Saturday, entering as a 73rd-minute substitute in Houston's 1-1 tie against New York. Dixon (Humble, Texas) became the third Dynamo Academy player to compete for the first team, joining midfielder Francisco Navas Cobo (April 17, 2010) and goalkeeper Tyler Deric (September 16, 2010). Dixon was also Houston's third rookie to appear this season, joining first-round draft picks Will Bruin and Kofi Sarkodi.
OUT: FW Calen Carr (concussion); DF Jermaine Taylor (R foot sprain); FW Brian Ching (L rib separation); DOUBTFUL: MF Brad Davis (L hamstring strain); PROBABLE: MF Colin Clark (L knee ACL surgery)
Sporting Kansas City
OUT: MF Ryan Smith (L knee inflamation); FW Konrad Warzycha (R knee surgery); MF Stephane Auvray (illness); MF Graham Zusi (R knee sprain); DF Chance Myers (L adductor strain); DOUBTFUL: DF Julio Cesar (R hamstring strain); PROBABLE: MF Luke Sassano (R ankle sprain); GK Jon Kempin (R quadricep strain)
Potential Starting XI
F: Jason Garey
F: Will Bruin
LM: Danny Cruz
CAM: Alex Dixon
CDM: Josue Soto
RM: Colin Clark
LB: Mike Chabala
CB: Eddie Robinson (C)
CB: Jordan Graye
RB: Kofi Sarkodie
GK: Tyler Deric
Subs: Evan Newton (GK), Corey Ashe, Lovel Palmer, Cam Weaver, Hunter Freeman, Francisco Navas Cobo, Josue Soto
Tonight's game is being streamed through both the Houston Dynamo and Sporting KC's websites. Unless technology is not cooperative, check back here closer to kickoff for the full starting line-ups from both teams. Also, don't forget to follow here for live, in-game updates and feel free to check out Dynamo Theory for Zach's game stream.