Sporting Kansas City advanced to the US Open Cup Quarterfinals last night following a 2-0 win over the Colorado Rapids. Peter Vermes used a mix of regular first team starters and fringe players to face a injury-riddled Colorado Rapids side that saw mostly reserve players step on to the field at LSP.
An own goal from goalkeeper Matt Pickens in the 27th minute and a sweet side-footed volley from Teal Bunbury in the 79th were the difference makers in the fixture to give Kansas City their first ever US Open Cup win over the Rapids.
With the win, Sporting KC now move into the same position they were in last year where they eventually lost out to the Richmond Kickers, a side 2 divisions lower than them. But with the lessons learned last season still fresh in their memory, there could be a more favorable outcome for Sporting KC when they take on the Dayton Dutch Lions on the 26th of June in the next round of the tournament.
Knowing that both Kei Kamara and Roger Espinoza were out of the side due to international duty I feel Peter Vermes made the right selections with the guys he had available. Not only did he give valuable minutes to guys that may not usually get the start for SKC, but he also made sure there was a good mix of experience as well as Jimmy Nielsen and Julio Cesar - guys who have played an average of 980 minutes in the league so far - made their USOC debuts.
The mixed side for Sporting KC started the game off well forcing the Colorado Rapids to stay on their own side of the field for the first part of the half yet by the 18th minute a shot for either side had still not been recorded. The "Haitian Xavi" - as he is affectionately known in Kansas City - broke the shooting drought with a well timed volley that scurried well wide of the right hand post. The attacking intent was there from Joseph but the execution was off.
The execution would continue to be off until the 27th minute of play when Aurelien Collin powered his header off a Zusi set piece to the left of Colorado's keeper Matt Pickens who attempted to parry the header away but the ball struck the left hand post, came back off Pickens' diving hands, and into the net. Collin sent LSP into a frenzy and calmed some nerves that had been questioning whether or not tonight was going to be Sporting KC's night.
Sporting KC remained in the ascendancy for the rest of the half but just 7 minutes into the second it looked as if Colorado would pull one back, however Sporting KC remained in front as Jaime Castrillon's shot hit the woodwork off a Martin Rivera cross.
The close call for Sporting KC early in the half was a pre-cursor to the end to end action that was about to ensue throughout the rest of the match up until the last ten minutes of the game. It took a 79th minute volley from Teal Bunbury to settle the match and basically put Sporting KC into the next round. With 10 minutes left and 2 goals to score on a Sporting KC defense that had been solid the entire night the Rapids reverted to playing cheap and dirty. Real classy stuff from the former MLS Champs.
Jimmy Nielsen 7 - Nielsen did well to stop the only shot he had to deal with from Colorado in the 29th minute and as ever, lead the team well.
Chance Myers 6 - Chance didn't really impress me too much the other night. His attempted shot early on in the game off a Besler throw-in was difficult don't get me wrong, but you have to feel he should have done a little more with the opportunity. He also looked a little tired and a step behind the play. He's played every minute in the league this season (1080 all together), are the matches catching up with him?
Matt Besler 7 - Like I've said before, and will continue to say until he gets the notoriety he deserves, Besler has really stepped up his physical game this season and that was evident against the Rapids. At 6'0 he's not too big of a threat in the air but he beat out stronger and taller players in jumping situations as well as out-muscling strikers.
Aurelien Collin 8.5 Man of the Match - Collin has become one of my favorite players to watch in a Sporting KC outfit, his tenacity along with his class combines well and that showed again against Colorado. His header was the reason SKC scored their first goal, and if for nothing else, he deserves the rating for his world-class tackle that thwarted Colorado's counter attack at the top of the penalty spot in the 69th minute.
Seth Sinovic 6.5 - It was an average game from the 25 year old. He attacked and defended well and when he was forced into making a throw in, he found a way to make it work seeing as both hands are severely injured.
Julio Cesar 6.5 - The defensive midfielder played a average game. Again, he read the game well, but there weren't many headline making plays.
Peterson Joseph 5.5 - For a guy that finally got a starting spot in an important game such as the one the other night I expected Peterson to grab it by the reigns. From what I've seen personally from him in reserve league games, he's played really well and it was somewhat startling to see his performance drop so low. A lot of balls went astray and he was the first one to go when SKC needed another defensive midfielder to shore up the holes.
Graham Zusi 7 - His set piece abilities again helped Kansas City out on the first goal and he and Julio did well to welcome in Joseph to the midfield.
Jacob Peterson 7 - When it was announced that Jacob would be starting the game, a lot of people groaned and moaned on twitter with their displeasure at the decision from Vermes to start the 26 year old. But as the game progressed you saw why Peter had chosen him, he attacked well and created opportunities for CJ and Teal.
Teal Bunbury 8 - Bunbury has fully earned his nickname "The Rapids Killer" as he yet again scored on Colorado, and what a goal it was too. But it's not just the goal that earns him the rating, it's his movement off the ball and his apparent new found ability to include other people into the attacks.
CJ Sapong 6.5 - Sapong was quiet for most of the game, and rightly so, he was playing out of position and most of SKC's attacks went down the right side.