Like pizza without cheese, the Orlando City Soccer Club will be without a key ingredient to its success Wednesday night.
Even without leading scorer Dom Dwyer, midfielder Jamie Watson would not be surprised if the Lions upend host Sporting Kansas City of Major League Soccer. The fourth-round match in the U.S. Open Cup is set to begin at 8:30 p.m.
"It would be massive,'' Watson said. "Is it the end-all, be-all for us to win? No, but we want to show well.''
The rivals, at least for one night, entered into a two-year sharing agreement before this season that saw four players loaned to Orlando City for this season. Dwyer, goalkeeper Jon Kempin, defender Yann Sango'o and midfielder Christian Duke are not eligible to play because of a "gentleman's agreement,'' Sporting Kansas City CEO Rob Heineman told mlssoccer.com.
"Songo'o and Dom have played almost every minute for us since they've been here,'' Orlando City coach Adrian Heath said. "In a perfect world, we'd have them, but the decision probably has been the right one.''
It could impact Orlando City significantly. Midway through the USL Pro season, Dwyer has shattered the 3-year-old league's record with 15 goals in 13 matches. He has accounted for nearly 45 percent of the Lions' 34 goals in league matches.
Orlando City (10-1-2), which leads USL Pro with 32 points, won the championship in the league's inaugural season and finished with the best regular-season record in 2012.
"I don't think we are a team that relies on just one player,'' Watson said.
Said Heath: "Most of our players have hopes of playing in MLS. There is no greater incentive than to show what you can do [on the biggest stage].''
Orlando City is 3-6-3 all time against MLS clubs, including a 2-0 victory against the Colorado Rapids in the last round of the U.S. Open Cup. Sporting Kansas City will be without former Lake Brantley standout Graham Zusi, who is with the U.S. team.
Zusi is one of six Sporting Kansas City players who will miss the match because of international obligations.
"Everyone else would view this as an upset,'' Watson said. "I don't think there's one guy in the locker room that thinks that. We can beat any team in the country on a given night.
"I don't think that is overconfidence. That is deserved confidence.''