Sporting Kansas City began their defense of their US Open Cup championship in the northerly climes of
southern Canada Minnesota against NASL side Minnesota United FC in a game that gave everyone some bonus soccer when regulation time ended with the game tied at one goal apiece. A Diego Rubio goal decided matters and eliminated MUFC in a spirited matchup of Midwestern sides.
Deploying mostly regular starters with reserves mixed in at keeper to give Tim Melia a night off and on the wings and at center back to cover for the Copa America-necessitated absences of Graham Zusi and Matt Besler, Sporting was mostly able to dictate play during the first half, but despite forcing several corner kicks and set pieces, they did not challenge MUFC keeper Sammy Ndjock until about twenty minutes in when Ndjock denied Dom Dwyer in a quickfire one-on-one opportunity facilitated by a lofted pass by Jimmy Medranda.
Neither team threatened the other's goal in any genuinely dangerous way for the remainder of the half, and the scoreless game entered the second half with no substitutions for either side. Minnesota, however, worked to break the stalemate and eventually forced Ike Opara to take a yellow card for a tactical foul. On the ensuing set piece, Alec Kann was forced into a one-on-one save very similar to Ndjock's on Dwyer, but the play was called off for offside
Shortly afterward, the game began to get quite chippy. Damien Lowe kicked out at Dom Dwyer in a contest for the ball, initiating a fracas that saw Lowe, Ndjock, and Roger Espinoza all cautioned, with Lowe lucky to still remain on the field of play. Dwyer took another hard foul at the hands of MUFC's Juliano Vicentini, resulting in another Minnesota yellow card to the cascading sound of boos from the home crowd.
A little over an hour in, Sporting finally had another chance to break the nil-nil tie as MUFC defender Brent Kallman was whistled for handling the ball in the penalty area, and Sporting's regular spot kick taker Benny Feilhaber slotted home the ensuing penalty kick just past the reach of Ndjock, who had guessed correctly and dove to his left, but Feilhaber's kick was so well-placed as to be unsaveable.
The physical nature of the match continued, with MUFC's Danny Cruz and Ben Speas and Sporting's Saad Abdul-Salaam and Lawrence Olum all being cautioned for fouls before Medranda gave the spot kick goal right back to MUFC by scything down Cruz just inside the Sporting penalty box with a two-footed slide tackle that completely missed the ball. Christian Ramirez duly converted from the penalty spot with a mirror-image kick of Feilhaber's--low to the goalkeeper's left. Like Ndjock, Kann guessed correctly but could do nothing about Ramirez's spot kick.
Sporting came close to retaking the lead with a Dom Dwyer header that just glanced off the Minnesota crossbar, but a foul whistled against Dwyer meant that any goal would not have counted regardless. The game finally opened up subsequently, but neither side could score the go-ahead goal before regulation time concluded, leading to two fifteen-minute periods of extra time.
Both teams threatened in the first extra-time period, with perhaps the best chance falling to MUFC before a timely block from Opara prevented a point-blank shot on Kann and Sporting instead conceded only a corner kick instead of a goal.
In the second extra-time period, it was Sporting with the best chance at first, when Ndjock spilled a Medranda shot from distance and saw the rebound buried by Diego Rubio, only for the goal to be called off for offside when Rubio neglected to return to an onside position.
Rubio, however, atoned for his mental error only moments later when he took a perfectly placed pass from Feilhaber and lashed it past Ndjock with both pace and placement just inside the far post to put the Sporks back on top, 2-1. Despite some late scares from the MUFC attack and errors by the SKC defense, the scoreline held, and the Paris of the Plains emerged victorious over a Mini Soda United FC that put up a tremendous effort in defense of their home field.
Sporting KC advances to the round of 16 of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup and returns to league play this Sunday against FC Dallas after the league-wide break for the group stage of the Copa America.