Ike Opara of Sporting KC celebrates his goal against Minnesota United in the Fourth Round of the 2017 US Open Cup. Photo: Sporting KC
When lineups were released, it was clear Minnesota United’s plan was to put numbers behind the ball and hope to get a goal on the counter. That plan seemed to be working for the first 40 minutes of the first half as they allowed seven shots for Sporting Kansas City, only two of which were on target.
Unfortunately for Minnesota United, soccer is played in 45 minute halves and Sporting KC got two goals in the last five minutes of the first half on their way to a 4-0 win in the Fourth Round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup at Children’s Mercy Park on Wednesday night.
Sporting KC’s intent was also clear when they trotted out a lineup with several regular starters included.
“This is a very important tournament, it’s an opportunity to win another trophy,” said Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes. “We want to do the best we can. We want to play to try and win every game. To do that, you’ve got to constantly put teams out there that can get the job done. Tonight, obviously, we made a few changes, but it was to put a group out there to get the job done, and they did.”
Sporting KC opened the scoring in the 43rd minute on a goal on a set piece by defender Ike Opara. Defender Graham Zusi’s corner kick found Opara near the top of the 6-yard box and Opara headed it directly over goalkeeper Patrick McLain and into the back of the net.
The home side doubled their lead in first-half stoppage time on a goal by Gerso Fernandes. Forward Daniel Salloi’s shot from 30 yards out deflected off McLain’s right hand post and directly into Fernandes’s path. Minnesota’s defense failed to close down the Bissau-Guinean, who managed to take two touches before denting the twine for his first Open Cup goal of his career.
Minnesota United’s best chance came in the 53rd minute when Collen Martin put a shot off Tim Melia’s right hand post. The visitors only managed five shots in the entire match and none of them were on target.
There was a scary moment in the 56th minute. Sporting KC midfielder Roger Espinoza and Minnesota defender Joseph Greenspan both went up for a ball in the Minnesota penalty area and Greenspan came down hard, staying down on the turf for more than ten minutes as medical staff prepared to put him on a backboard and get him off the pitch. He was immediately taken to KU Medical Center and team officials did not know his immediate status.
Sporting KC didn’t take long after the restart to get back to business. In the 72nd minute, Fernandes played a perfect through ball to Dom Dwyer, whose well-timed run put him in alone on McLain. Dwyer’s soft chip over the sliding keeper made the advantage 3-0.
Eleven minutes later, Sporting KC executed an almost exact copy of goal No. 3. This time, Espinoza played Salloi in on goal and Salloi rifled a shot just inside the near post to close out the scoring. It was Salloi’s first goal in a Sporting KC uniform.
“He’s a great finisher,” Vermes said of Salloi.” He has a real knack in and around the box. He really does. He’s a really good finisher, and the fact that he did does not surprise me.”
Added Salloi: “It’s amazing. It’s a big day because it’s also my first start, too. I’m happy that everything worked out and I hope I can score in MLS and play in as many games as I can. I’m just looking forward to the next game.”
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