Latif Blessing (right) and Benny Failhaber of Sporting Kansas City celebrate during a 3-1 win over FC Dallas in the 2017 US Open Cup. Photo: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports | Sporting KC
In a game filled with emotion, energy and sheer lunacy, Sporting Kansas City defeated the defending champion FC Dallas 3-0 in the Quarterfinals of the 2017 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup at Children’s Mercy Park. A crowd of just over 15,000 watched as Sporting KC scored three goals in extra time after the match finished scoreless at the end of regulation
After honoring co-owner Neal Patterson, who passed away Sunday after a battle with cancer at the age of 67, the match was off to a bit of a slow start. Neither team had any clear-cut chances in the first quarter of an hour.
The match changed dramatically in the 15th minute. Sporting Kansas City defender Seth Sinovic was shown a straight red card for what referee Younes Marrakchi called “denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity by foul.” What seemed to get the crowd and Peter Vermes upset the most, however, was that Marrakchi appeared at first to be reaching for his yellow card, then decided to pull the straight red. The second-fastest red card on record in the Modern Era put the home team in an early hole.
After the match, Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said he thought the club would still win the match, even after the red card.
“But I honestly will tell you this: when Seth got thrown out, for some reason I believed that we were going to win the game,” Vermes said. “I don’t know what it is. Maybe it was Neal, I don’t know. I just felt it tonight, I really did.”
One of the keys to the defensive effort Sporting KC put forward was the play of defender Erik Palmer-Brown. Out of the 33 passes he attempted, he missed only two. The 20-year-old Palmer-Brown, who captained the United States during the recent Under-20 World Cup, was simply, according to Vermes, fantastic.
“His reading of where to be in the box when a lot of crosses were coming in on the ground, as well as in the air, was impeccable,” Vermes said. “He was good on the ball, he was strong when he needed to be. He won a lot of aerial duels in the box. He was a monster. I was very, very proud of him. And the progression that he has made as a player is tremendous. He’s playing very well.”
After the match went into extra time scoreless, the scariest moment of the match came in the 101st minute. FC Dallas forward Maxi Urruti was attempting a bicycle kick in the Sporting KC penalty area when he connected with the head of defender Ike Opara, who was attempting to head the ball away. Opara landed hard and the match was stopped for several minutes while he was attended to. Urruti was given his second caution on the play and looked visibly shaken on his way off the field. Marrakchi said he gave the yellow because “The foul was reckless.” Opara gave many in attendance some hope as he gave a thumbs up as he was stretchered off the field and taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.
With the game being played at 10-v-10, this was just the beginning of a dramatic, and lengthy eight minutes of stoppage time for the first extra time period.
Moments after the game returned to action, Latif Blessing opened the scoring in the second minute of stoppage time. Midfielder Benny Feilhaber, who came on as a substitute at the end of regulation, fed a through ball to Blessing. The Ghanaian forward slotted home under goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez to give the home side a 1-0 lead.
Two minutes later, stoppage time continued and the team that played the majority of the match with a man advantage, found themselves down a man. FC Dallas’ second half sub Javier Morales got beat by Feilhaber and the Argentine midfielder pulled on Feilhaber’s jersey to prevent a breakaway, resulting in a straight red card.
Sporting doubled their lead just before the end of the eight minutes of stoppage in extra time. Second half sub Daniel Salloi chased a ball down to the byline and put a ball back through the penalty area. Midfielder Jimmy Medranda, who slid to left back after Sinovic’s departure, tried to put a shot on net from the top of the penalty area. The shot went well wide toward the far post but Blessing, who thought he was offside, was standing near the top of the six-yard box and redirected the ball into the back of the net for his second goal of the tournament.
Asked about his performance after the match, Blessing said he came here for trophies.
“I want to win cups,” Blessing said. “We want to win cups. I came here from Ghana to win cups for Kansas City.”
The final dagger of the match came in the 118th minute. Feilhaber played a soft through ball to forward Daniel Salloi, who slotted home under Gonzalez to bring Dallas’ six-game Open Cup winning streak to an end.
The win comes at an opportune time. The club has the next six days off before returning to training next Monday, thanks to the league break for the Gold Cup. Kansas City then don’t have another league match under July 22.
With the win, Sporting Kansas City reaches the Cup Semifinals for the third time in the last six years, winning each of the previous two. The date and location of the semifinal against the San Jose Earthquakes will be announced after the Quarterfinals are completed.