Sporting Kansas City is back in its Open Cup jet stream. And the wingers shall elevate them. The sixth meeting all-time in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup between Sporting Kansas City and Houston Dynamo take flight in its last hour via Sporting’s Johnny Russell and Daniel Salloi, as Sporting erased a 1-0 deficit in the Round of 16 match to move towards glory with a 2-1 victory.
Coming into Wednesday night’s matchup at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas, Sporting held a 22-7-3 record at home in the domestic tournament first played in 1914.
Sporting manager Peter Vermes shuffled his lineup, to a point, as his side was contesting its sixth match in 18 days and contending with various injuries throughout the team. In goal, John Pulskamp took root, with Logan Ndenbe, Andreu Fontas, a blonde-topped Kortne Ford, and Ben Sweat from left to right. The midfield featured Felipe Hernandez and Cam Duke listed as duel holding midfielders with Remi Walter, Uri Rosell, and Johnny Russell ahead. At lone striker was Daniel Salloi. Salloi and Fontas were the only two different than the eleven in Sunday’s 1-1 draw at San Jose Earthquakes.
Houston’s lineup card, filled out by Manager and former Sporting KC player Paulo Nagamura, saw only three who started at the weekend in a 3-0 win over LA Galaxy.
Yet, it was the Dynamo’s fluid passing and interchanging exhibited early on. As well as their astuteness at keeping the pitch small for Kansas City. Sporting’s lack of cohesion in the attack meant individual skill had to win in moments.
In such a moment, Walter drew yellow from Houston‘s Darwin Ceren in the 17th minute for a free kick at the top of the Dynamo box 28 yards out. Russell put the ensuing free kick wide right.
Although the first 40 minutes did not inspire hope for compelling attacking play on the night as much was a midfield slog, the match came alive in the last five of the first half. Houston’s Corey Baird received 22 yards out from KC’s goal with Ndenbe on his right hip and Ford closing. Baird managed to keep tight control and push the ball by Pulskamp’s right to put the visitors in front in the 41st minute.
A minute on, Hernandez struck 20 yards out for Sporting. The heavy ball was palmed over the bar by Houston goalkeeper Michael Nelson for a corner. However, the half would end 1-0 for Houston.
Forward Khiry Shelton and midfielder Roger Espinoza came on for Sweat and Rosell for the second forty-five as Vermes moved Sporting back to their traditional 4-3-3.
It did not take long for the hosts to level. In the 52nd minute, Russell collected between two defenders on the inside right channel. The Scot beat those, then with another on his right, hit left low into the far corner of the net to tie the match.
Ndenbe was knocked to the ground on an attacking run not long after. The Belgian came up clutching his shoulder and continued to be troubled by it in the ensuing minutes. Consequently, Kayden Pierre stepped on for him in the 64th minute.
Amping up the attacking pressure, via Salloi, Sporting drew a yellow and a dangerous free kick just outside right of the Houston’s box in the 69th minute. In the aftermath, Russell got in close for a shot near the left post, but his attempt was blocked.
Seventy-second minute - off a right-wing feed from Duke, Salloi swerved and drove, forcing a late leg and a whistled penalty call in the box. Russell took the spot kick with aplomb, blasting the ball past Nelson for the 2-1 lead. Sporting’s road to the quarterfinal, and a meeting with USL side Union Omaha, suddenly seemed clear.
To keep the way smooth, Vermes inserted athletic center back Nicolas Isimat-Mirrin into the match for his first minutes since April 23rd. The French back suffered a concussion and a facial fracture in that contest versus Columbus Crew.
Pierre was beaten in the 81st, but Pulskamp came out right to snuff out the chance, and he would snuff out another moments later.
Kansas City held on to book their ticket to the Open Cup Quarterfinals at home on June 22nd.