Sporting KC (+195) at Houston Dynamo (+220), Draw (+185)
Is your country not playing in the Euros? Are you scared of hopping on the Iceland bandwagon and getting your heart broken?
If you answered “no” to both, or are just a soccer fan, then you should turn your attention over to the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. Now in its 103rd year, the third-longest-running open soccer tournament in the world has never been more popular. A record 91 clubs from all over the United States qualified for the tournament, but only 16 remain in the single-elimination contest.
At this stage, the field is mostly made up of MLS teams, including last year’s champion, Sporting KC (1-0), who will host the Houston Dynamo (1-0) in the Round of 16 (June 29th, 7:00 PM Eastern).
In MLS play, the Dynamo only have three wins to their name in 15 fixtures. Despite being seven points behind Sporting KC in the MLS standings, Houston will not feel over-matched; one of their three wins came against Sporting KC. The two teams also played to a 2-2 draw in Kansas City during preseason action.
Houston will also be playing with revenge on their minds, as it was Kansas City who eliminated the Dynamo from the 2015 US Open Cup in the quarterfinals, 3-1. This loss marks the only time Kansas City has defeated Houston in their last six meetings.
In Houston’s lone game of the tournament, thus far, they dominated a subpar USL team, San Antonio FC, 4-0.
Sporting KC played a tougher foe in their first game of the tournament, Minnesota FC, who belongs to the North American Soccer League. The two teams were locked at one goal apiece when the second half expired, and stayed level through the first period of extra time. In the second interval, Kansas City finally netted the winner. Diego Rubio, who substituted in for leading scorer Dom Dwyer, was responsible for the winner, keeping KC’s quest to repeat alive and well.
If Sporting KC wish to successfully defend their championship, it is crucial for Dom Dwyer to have a similar performance to last year when he netted five goals, tying him for the tournament lead (with then-teammate Krisztián Németh). Without Németh and with Benny Feilhaber struggling offensively, Dwyer has had to shoulder the load all season and will have to continue doing so.
Houston may not have as prolific a scorer as Dwyer, but they have a lot of guys chipping in offensively. Their problem arises on the defensive end, allowing the fifth-most goals in the Western Conference.
In spite of their earlier meeting this season, I will take Dwyer to carry his team through one more stage, buying more time for Feilhaber to snap out of his offensive funk.
Pick: Sporting FC (+195).
(Photo Credit: Nbrooks503 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)