The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is no cake walk. After all, the Crew has been knocked out of the tournament by lower-division teams Richmond Kickers and Dayton Dutch Lions FC at home the past two seasons. Perhaps the Black & Gold's fortunes could change in 2013 as the experience of former Open Cup champions and offseason signings Tyson Wahl and Konrad Warzycha could prove to be in the Crew's favor on Wednesday as it opens tournament play with a re-match with Dutch Lions FC (7:30 p.m. ET / TheCrew.com).
Wahl played a hand in three-straight U.S. Open Cups for Seattle Sounders FC from 2009-11, while Warzycha contributed in Sporting Kansas City's title run last season. As both can attest, a team's depth is a critical factor in Open Cup success.
"[To win the U.S. Open Cup], it takes a lot of different things to go well," Wahl explained. "It takes team depth and a positive locker room to get through the extra games your team is required to play. It takes a little bit of luck as well because it's single-game elimination. If the ball is not bouncing your way, you're going to be out of the tournament pretty quickly.
Warzycha added: "It takes a total team effort. From [Sporting KC] last year, I'm pretty sure everyone played a role. Leading up to the championship, everyone got a chance to get in the game and play."
Lower-division teams, like Dutch Lions FC of USL PRO, can be easily overlooked by MLS sides in the tournament. Top-flight MLS clubs often have a target on their back as teams from NASL, USL PRO and PDL usually embrace the underdog role in the competition.
"We can't take them lightly," Warzycha admitted. "We have to expect a battle, and not take it lightly. It's not just going to be a walk in the park. They're not just going to hand us the game. You can't underestimate your opponent in the Open Cup."
"It's all about respecting your opponents," Wahl echoed. "The reality of it is that MLS is getting a lot better. We're getting a lot of players from other countries that are high-level players, so a lot of former guys that were in our league are having to play in all these other leagues.
"I think it would be unwise of us to underestimate teams in any of those divisions because there are a lot of quality players out there. Plus, they're extremely fired up to beat an MLS team to prove to some MLS coach or team that they were done wrong. That's what makes it tough for MLS teams; we have to match their intensity."
If all goes well Wednesday night, Wahl hopes wins in the Open Cup build momentum for the MLS Regular Season. The Crew will face the Houston Dynamo and the Philadelphia Union in a five-day span following Wednesday's Open Cup tilt.
"One of the best parts of the Open Cup is that if you can not only win it, but also if you can use the success in the Open Cup and parlay it into success in the MLS season and get a little bit of a double dipping," the defender said.
"If we can transform wins in the Open Cup into wins in our Regular Season play, then I think it will be great on both fronts."