Sporting KC wins U.S. Open Cup on penalties

IMAGE, USSOCCER.COM

In a penalty shootout, Sporting Kansas City prevailed on the road against the Philadelphia Union to win the U.S. Open Cup final. The game finished 1-1 through 120 minutes of play.

Sporting started sloppily, but they had the biggest chance of the early game. Benny Feilhaber did well to bring down a cross and lay it off to Paulo Nagamura, who fired it off the far post. The rebound was grasped by a thankful Andre Blake.

But the Union were the sharper team by far in the opening half, and they scored the opening goal. A brilliant through ball by Vincent Nogueria split the defense, and Sebastien Le Toux beat Tim Melia. Le Toux has 16 career goals in the Open Cup, a modern era record. He nearly got another in the 37th minute, thanks to a very similar set-up. This time, Melia came off his line to stop the chance, and just moments later the SKC keeper had to make a diving save on a curling shot by Tranquillo Barnetta.

The second half quickly turned physical and even chippy in the rain. Four yellow cards were handed out in the game’s first hour, and many more after that. The Sons of Ben didn’t need much reason to turn on referee Ted Unkel.

In the 64th minute, Krisztian Nemeth’s curling shot equalized for Kansas City. Graham Zusi took a challenge to play the ball into Nemeth’s pass, and the Hungarian struck it perfectly into the far side of the net. Nemeth had scored in the previous three Open Cup matches for SKC, and his five goals are tied for the most in the tournament with Dom Dwyer.

Despite a frantic final half hour, the final required extra time for the second year in a row. The extra half hour didn’t produce too much drama, unlike last year. But in the final minute of the match, Jim Curtin brought on John McCarthy, the goalkeeper who won two shootouts en route to the final. The game went to penalties after two scoreless extra time periods.

Le Toux took the first penalty and rocketed it off the underside of the crossbar. It bounced down, over the goal line. Benny Feilhaber matched that for SKC. The first mistake was made in the third round by Maurice Edu, who took a weak shot to Melia’s right that was easily saved. McCarthy responded with a diving save to deny Nemeth. The penalty takers did their jobs well in this shootout; we would go until the eighth round of kicks before another miss. Andrew Wenger’s attempt was much like Edu’s, not hit with enough pace to bother Melia at all. Jordi Quintilla stepped up for Kansas City and won the tournament with his penalty.

The eight-round shootout was the longest for an Open Cup Final in the modern MLS era.

For SKC it is their third Open Cup victory, and third trophy in a four-year span. They previously won the tournament in 2004 and 2012, also on penalties. Along with the trophy, they earn a berth to next year’s CONCACAF Champions League. 800 fans traveled to PPL Park for the final, and they could be heard loud and clear throughout the contest.

On the other side of this is Philly, who have now lost two straight Open Cup finals. The fanbase has grown (rightfully) restless with the team’s performance in recent years, and a trophy could have eased some of the anger aimed at the front office.

  • Kevin

    Fun game to watch. I can’t believe Phillys luck. They just can’t get anything going ever

  • soccerfan

    Really …. Hmmm .

  • HydraHamster

    It’s a good year to be a Kansas City soccer fan. Sporting Kansas City won the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup and Kansas City FC is in the women’s finals. Hopefully Sporting KC will not disappoint in the CONCACAF Championship League like they did last time. If only there was a women’s version of that tournament.