For the second time in four years, Sporting Kansas City is the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Champion. And for the second time in four years, the victory was claimed in penalty kicks.
Jordi Quintilla’s conversion in the eighth round of penalties was the difference as Sporting Kansas City topped the Philadelphia Union 7-6 in kicks after a 1-1 regulation draw. It is the third time that Kansas City has lifted the Open Cup trophy (2004, 2012, 2015).
Sporting had to come from behind to get to penalty kicks, giving up the opening goal in the 23rd minute. Looking dangerous throughout the first half, the Union got that goal when Vincent Nogueira hit a laser of a diagonal pass to Sebastian Le Toux. The Frenchman made no mistake with his right foot, putting the ball in the back of the net. That goal was Le Toux’s 16th in Open Cup play — the most of anyone in the Open Cup Modern Era.
The Union, playing in their second Final at home in a row, could not find a second goal however. The lack of a killer second goal gave Sporting hope heading into the second half.
Photo: Bob Larson
“In the first half we pushed the tempo,” Union coach Jim Curtin said. “I was sitting on the sideline saying ‘we need a second goal.’ ”
The road team pushed forward in the second half and were eventually rewarded. In the 65th minute, Chance Myers crossed a ball into the Union box that was played by Graham Zusi. Krisztian Nemeth collected the ball and hit a right-footed curler to the far post, past Andre Blake to tie the match. It was the fifth goal of the competition for Nemeth who would finish the Open Cup tied with teammate Dom Dwyer in goals (5) and points (11). It also marked the fourth straight game that Nemeth had scored a goal in, which ties a Modern Era record.
“Our biggest thing was that we wanted to get set higher up the field,” said Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes. “We couldn’t get ourselves out [in the first half]. I knew we had the ability to break [the Union] down.”
For 10 minutes after the goal, Philadelphia looked down and out. Conor Casey came in as a sub and changed that, getting a shot on goal with his first touch. Casey remained influential for the remainder of the match, but Kansas City and keeper Tim Melia kept him off the scoreboard.
The crowd of 14,463 wet fans — including a fair amount of Sporting Kansas City supporters — were not treated to a game-winner. Instead, the teams headed to overtime, something the Union especially were used to in Open Cup play.
Both teams had a few chances in the second half, but the most interesting moment came when Curtin made his final sub. With a minute left in the second overtime, Curtin switched goalkeepers, bringing in John McCarthy for Blake. McCarthy was the hero against both Rochester and the New York Red Bulls in earlier rounds of the Open Cup, winning penalty kick shootouts in each game.
“It’s something we talked about all week,” Curtin said. “He is special at PKs.”
But it was Sporting Kansas City that came out on top. After two rounds, Melia saved Maurice Edu’s shot, but McCarthy followed up with a save on Nemeth. Both teams converted four more kicks until the Union’s Andrew Wenger had his shot stopped by Melia. Quintilla was the hero, putting his shot away to give Kansas City the victory.