An opportunity to right a listing ship. A chance to claim glory. The 2022 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is a pure good for a Sporting Kansas City side that could use a lift. Winning match one – entering the inclusive, 107-year-old nationwide tournament in the Round of 32 – at home over FC Dallas is the beginning for four-time Open Cup champs Kansas City. And it just might present an in for those who have had little, or no, chance to show Manager Peter Vermes what they can do.
The Tuesday evening match, on the heels of an MLS league 0-0 draw at New York City FC on Saturday, could be just what the 2-6-3 in league play club needs. Vermes’ lineup reflected the lean towards a rebirth:
And the night may have been exactly that, a rebirth, as Sporting took the win in unconventional style to begin their 2022 Open Cup journey. Early mistakes and a more schooled opponent spelled an early doom that Kansas City valiantly clawed back from for the win featuring strikes from Nikola Vujnovic and Marinos Tzionis, an FC Dallas own goal, and a hustling effort Khiry Shelton.
Goalkeeper John Pulskamp; backs Kayden Pierre and Kaveh Rad, midfielder Spencer Glass (just added on loan from SKC this week) Jake Davis, and Ozzie Cisneros all gained their first start for the first team in 2022. It was a 3-5-2 formation with Andreu Fontas at center back, flanked by Ben Sweat on the left and Rad on the right. Marinos Tzionis and Nikola Vujnovic headed the spear, with Glass, Cisneros, Davis, Felipe Hernandez, and Pierre left to right across the midfield.
The youth foreshadowed mistakes and such was the case in the 8th minute. Pulskamp, indecisive in his initial distribution, went left, and short, to Sweat. Sweat played back only to see Pulskamp return. The pass was weak and was picked up by an FC Dallas attacker who slotted near post to beat the keeper for an early 1-0 lead.
In the 16th minute, Cisneros beat his man up the left wing and was taken down with a pull back and a shoulder into his back. The play knocked out the winger, as he limped off with a seeming right leg injury. Cam Duke quickly took his spot.
Moments later, Pulskamp made a sprawling save to his left off a Dallas header from a corner to keep the match within one.
Sporting had much of the ball through the 29th minute, but it was Dallas with the most viable threats, mostly off long balls or Kansas City lapses. At this point, the visitors had hit target three times with two corners to none for the hosts in each.
Dynamic play from Dallas bore fruit in minute thirty-five. Quick combinations through the midfield and deft ball movement in the box meant a clear shot from Dallas’ left side deposited into the far-right corner of Sporting’s goal. Home side down two. No doubt Dallas’ more veteran group was rising above.
Pierre’s skillful run up the right wing and overall enterprising play in first half stoppage time was a highlight for a Kansas City side needing to regroup at the break. Would Vermes let them grind it out and maybe grow, or would he inject some of Sporting’s starters from the sidelines?
Sporting was rejuvenated after the break, creatively, and earnestly, getting the ball into FC Dallas’ box, mostly from the right wing via Hernandez, Glass, and Davis. Not to be passive viewers, Sweat and Vujnovic combined for a precise cross and header attempt from the left in the 53rd minute.
It was Sweat who would cross for Glass seven minutes later for a near attempt. Then, just after Vujnovic picked up an errant ball at the top of Dallas’ box, he took a touch and finished with coming pressure from the side into the net.
Immediately after, Khiry Shelton came on for the goal scorer, Remi Walter for Davis, and Daniel Salloi for Glass. There were 28 minutes to go. FC Dallas would counter with multiple subs a minute later.
The 70th minute brought near doom to the comeback, however. An errant Rad touch under coming pressure was intercepted. With an open goal, the Dallas forward thankfully misfired.
Captain Johnny Russell entered the fray in the 73rd minute for Pierre. A Kansas City goal would possibly mean a draw and two 15-minute overtime periods and penalties, if needed.
Sporting came close in the 80th minute as Duke crossed for a sliding Shelton at the far post. The smaller crowd, spurred on by Sporting’s play and a spirited dance from the Kansas City Chiefs’ Travis Kelce during the cooling break, was pushing their side on.
Russell leaped for a Duke cross at Dallas’ left post in the 86th minute, catching enough to force Dallas’ netminder Jimmy Maurer into a challenging save. A Hernandez grazing shot drew a gasp from the crowd shortly after. The tenacity with which Sporting played the second half was immense, the skill just behind.
Would seven minutes of added time be enough for a leveling strike from Sporting?
There was time for more drama as Salloi was violently upended on a break by Dallas’ Jose Martinez late in stoppage time. Russell forced a save and a corner with the ensuing free kick, a corner that would turn a corner for his side. Walter swung the take into the near post where Tzionis flicked the ball into the far corner for the leveler. The 98th minute marker was the latest regulation goal in Kansas City’s history. The match would see overtime.
Tzionis turned provider four minutes in. Cutting and slicing on the right wing, the Cypriot fed a diagonal running Shelton whose shot on frame was saved but deflected off a defender and across the goal line.
The end would come mercifully, for Dallas. Shelton’s pressure of Edwin Cerrillo in Dallas’s box meant an easy steal for the striker and a slotting home to ice the match for Kansas City.
The night had shown much. The growth shown by some youngsters and the character and passion shown by the side entire throughout the match are things Sporting can build on throughout the length of their Open Cup run... and into the rest of the MLS season.
The only caveat being it would now be a rugged schedule of four MLS matches in 14 days, in addition to their next Open Cup match either May 24th or 25th after the draw later this week.