Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes discusses the quick turnaround from winning the U.S. Open Cup to facing the LA Galaxy on Sunday. Sam McDowell The Kansas City Star
Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes discusses the quick turnaround from winning the U.S. Open Cup to facing the LA Galaxy on Sunday. Sam McDowell The Kansas City Star

Sporting KC

After winning U.S. Open Cup, is MLS Cup next for Sporting KC?

By Sam McDowell

smcdowell@kcstar.com

September 23, 2017 3:46 PM

The speech was the quintessence of Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes. In fact, few that he has delivered have captured his personality better.

There he stood in the middle of the locker room, only moments after winning a championship, reminding his players to turn their attention toward another.

“This isn’t the last one this year,” he said. “Let’s go.”

On that note, let’s dig into the possibility. After capturing the U.S. Open Cup title Wednesday, is Sporting Kansas City a favorite for the MLS Cup, too?

History isn’t on its side.

The U.S. Open Cup champion has not doubled as the MLS Cup champion since 2005, when the LA Galaxy did it. None have even reached the MLS Final since 2007.

But Sporting KC, which plays host to the Galaxy at 1 p.m. Sunday in its first match since lifting the Open Cup trophy, believes it has a distinct advantage to those prior attempts.

Experience. Sporting KC has now won three Open Cup titles in six seasons (2012, 2015 and 2017). Matt Besler, Graham Zusi and Seth Sinovic have started all three matches.

“We’ll draw on some of that,” Besler said. “We’re used to it. We’ve had experience with this situation a few times.”

Although Vermes said he was unaware of past Open Cup champions’ struggles in the MLS playoffs, the trend has lasted long enough that it’s difficult to chalk up to happenstance.

Peter Vermes delivers emotional speech in Sporting KC locker room after Open Cup win

Sporting Kansas City celebrated its 2017 U.S. Open Cup championship over New York.

Sam McDowell The Kansas City Star

If there’s a reason for it, it’s likely the obvious one. Winning the Open Cup requires playing more games than your league counterparts. The congested schedule makes for tired legs late in the season. Only four weeks remain in the regular season before the MLS playoffs begin.

On Friday, when Sporting KC reconvened for the first time since defeating the Red Bulls in the Open Cup final, most of the starters were given the day off after a light jog.

“I don’t think you can minimize the fact that playing more games is always going to have an effect on what you do,” Vermes said. “But I also think it has a lot to do with preparation.

“I think it’s the work we did in the offseason and the preseason to get us prepared for playing like we are (and) managing two tournaments. It’s something we thought about immensely as we were moving into this year.”

It’s not just the physical grind, though. It was an emotional one, too.

Even when assessing player availability for Sunday’s match against the LA Galaxy, Vermes said he would make decisions based “on a psychological level,” gauging which players have mentally recovered.

“It’s truly about understanding we’ve accomplished the goal we wanted to there, and now that (has) completely ended,” he said. “So now our focus has to be right back on the league. We have to get our mentality back for that.”

Watch Sporting KC's U.S. Open Cup celebration in the Power & Light District

Sporting Kansas City celebrated its 2017 U.S. Open Cup championship on Friday with a fan rally in Kansas City's Power & Light District.

Sam McDowell The Kansas City Star

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