Mitch Hildebrandt did his best Guillermo Ochoa impression for 75 minutes.
The Minnesota United FC goalkeeper made big save after big save — much like Mexico’s keeper in the World Cup this week against Brazil — keeping his side in the match even after going down to 10 men.
Soony Saad finally beat Hildebrandt in the 76th minute with a low, skipping drive, and added a second later as Sporting Kansas City advanced to the US Open Cup round of 16 with a 2-0 victory.
An uneventful first half was followed by an action-packed second period.
First, Sporting came out of the locker room wearing sky blue training shirts after the players had trouble telling their black and blue stripes apart from Minnesota’s grey shirts.
Then Minnesota went down to ten men just six minutes after the break. Cristiano Dias led with an elbow into Dow Dwyer’s head and the referee showed no hesitation going to the back pocket.
“I thought it ruined a good night of soccer,” said Minnesota head coach Manny Lagos of the red card. “I would say maybe a yellow. Maybe. It’s disappointing when a referee can affect the game that much.”
Sporting struggled to take control even with the extra man, but did get two golden chances to open the scoring. In the 64th minute Dom Dwyer beat Aaron Pitchkolan to a cross from Saad, but Hildebrandt stayed big and managed to save Dwyer’s rocket shot from close range. Sporting had another point-blank chance five minutes later when Seth Sinovic beat the offside trap, but Hildebrandt stayed on his feet as the SKC left back tried to get around him and then went to ground just in time to stop the shot.
The Minnesota goalkeeper could do nothing about Saad’s 76th minute strike, though. The ball was cycled back to Lawrence Olum who found Saad in a pocket of space 25 yards from goal. The forward took a touch and then ripped a low drive that beat Hildebrandt and broke the deadlock.
“Shooting is my game,” Saad said. “I knew I was going to shoot. I set my first touch up nicely and I didn’t even look where the goalie was, I just hit it.”
Sporting head coach Peter Vermes said Minnesota’s defensive game plan made it tough to create chances. Midfielder Lawrence Olum, who set up Saad’s winner, said the game plan was to find opportunities, like Saad’s, from further out with the Loons packed into their own half.
Minnesota’s best chance to pull level came in the 86th minute when defender Tiago Calvano’s header went just over the bar from a corner kick.
Alex Martinez sealed the win less than a minute later. Antonio Dovale released Sal Zizzo down the wing. The substitute had his cross blocked, but collected the deflection and teed up Martinez for an easy finish from close range.
Sporting moves on to host MLS rival, the Portland Timbers, on June 24 in the Fifth Round.
MATCH REPLAY: MINNESOTA UNITED AT SPORTING KC