A tense and tight first half gave way to a fluid and exciting second half as Sporting Kansas City defeated Minnesota United FC 2-0 in the fourth round of the US Open Cup.
Sporting KC advanced to the Round of 16 to play Portland next Tuesday at Sporting Park.
The first half, despite being tight, did yield some chances for both sides. In the seventh minute, Soony Saad made a brilliant cut inside and opened himself up for a shot just outside the box. He tried to go far post and managed to get the ball over the head of keeper Mitchell Hildebrandt's head, but the shot went off the crossbar and was cleared away.
In the 31st minute, Minnesota got one of their chances from the first half. Kevin Venegas made a nice backheel to himself to split the defense on the side of the box and pushed his way in. His shot, however, was from too tight of an angle and it was easily saved by Gruenebaum.
Victor Munoz made his Sporting KC debut this match but left a lot to be desired. He didn't link up well with the other midfielders and ended up leaving the game in the 34th minute after what appeared to be a hamstring injury. Alex Martinez came on and the midfield was more cohesive from that point.
While the first half was forgettable, the second half came out with a bang. First of all, Sporting KC had been wearing the secondary, striped kits while Minnesota United was wearing dark grey kits with a feather pattern that looked like stripes. It was hard to tell the difference between the teams and since it was a communication mixup, Sporting KC was allowed to play the second half in their Sporting Blue training tops.
Then, the excitement continued. In the 50th minute, Cristiano Dias went in forearm first on a challenge on Dom Dwyer, knocking the forward down out of the air. The challenge was deemed dangerous enough to warrant a red card and Minnesota was down to ten men.
Sporting KC soon took advantage of this, launching attack after attack on the Loon's and coming close to scoring. Had it not been for a Herculean effort from Hildebrandt, the score probably would have been more than 2-0. His performance in the 25 minutes after the red card saw him save two goals that were close-range shots from Sporting attackers behind the defense, plus an acrobatic save on a long-range shot from Saad.
Sporting KC finally broke through in the 76th minute by none other than the most dangerous attacker from the rest of the game. Lawrence Olum sent a pass from the top of the box to his left, where it was teed up for Soony Saad. Saad blasted it home near post, just beyond the fingertips of Hildebrandt. Sporting KC went up 1-0 but they weren't done yet.
After controlling possession for the next ten minutes, the home side broke through again. Sal Zizzo received a ball down the wing from Dovale and tried to cross it into the box. When it was deflected, Zizzo stayed with the ball and found an open Alex Martinez in the middle of the box. Martinez slotted it home for his first professional goal and Sporting KC lead 2-0.
That would end up being the final score as Sporting KC advanced to the fifth round with a 2-0 victory. Next week, they have two dates with the Portland Timbers. The first will be Tuesday at Sporting Park in US Open Cup play, then they will head to Portland for an MLS Regular Season match Friday night.
In other Open Cup News...
- Four MLS teams fell in the fourth round, though many teams had struggles with lower divisions. One of the more noteworthy games was the New York Cosmos dismantling the Red Bulls 3-0.
- Reigning US Open Cup Champions DC United fell 1-0 to the Rochester Rhinos, the second year in a row in which the defending champion has made an early exit.
- The Atlanta Silverbacks defeated Real Salt Lake 2-1 and Chivas USA fell in penalties to the Carolina Railhawks.
- In another effort to show the Chicago Fire that she hates them, Mother Nature played a factor in the Fire's match with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. After a weather delay to start the game, the weather forced the stoppage of play in the 49th minute with the Chicago Fire winning 2-1. Due to USSF rules, any game that ends after the first half but before the end of the second half with a team winning can be declared complete. The Fire ended up winning the rain-shortened match and advanced to play the Columbus Crew.
- Below is the fifth round schedule. Sixth round fixtures are expected within the week.