For the third time in six years, and the fourth time in club history, Sporting Kansas City won the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup by defeating the New York Red Bulls 2-1 in front of a crowd of 21,523 at Children’s Mercy Park. It was the third largest crowd in park history and the fourth largest crowd for the final in the history of the tournament.
Latif Blessing scored a first half goal and Daniel Salloi added another in the second half as Kansas City became just the eighth club in history to win four US Open Cup titles.
From the opening kickoff, the game was played at a very brisk pace. It was also very physical, with 32 fouls called and a few more that could have been.
Latif Blessing opened the scoring in the 25th minute. Defender Graham Zusi played an inch-perfect cross in from the right wing that found the head of Blessing, remarkable for a player listed at five feet, three inches tall. Blessing’s header rocketed past goalkeeper Ryan Meara to give Sporting KC a 1-0 lead. For Blessing, it was his third goal of the tournament.
Both clubs traded chances chances for most of the half. The best chance Sporting KC had came in the 42nd minute. Headers from Roger Espinoza, Matt Besler and Diego Rubio were off the crossbar, saved and over the crossbar, respectively in a matter of five seconds.
Moments after that flurry, Sporting KC was forced into their first substitution as Blessing came off in favor of striker Daniel Salloi.
Salloi repaid manager Peter Vermes’ faith in him with a goal in the 66th minute. Midfielder Benny Feilhaber played a long ball forward from just inside the midfield stripe to Salloi just outside the arc on the penalty area. Meara had come out to challenge for the ball, but Salloi toe-poked it past him and it slowly rolled into the net to double Sporting’s advantage.
Salloi said that he’d been prepared to come in earlier than one might expect.
“Before we walked out, Roger (Espinoza) came up to me and told me, ‘Every final, we get someone hurt, so be ready and come in focused,’” Salloi said. “And I was like, ‘Okay, good.’ and at halftime he told me, ‘You see, I told you so.’ So I’m happy that I was prepared and could step up to the moment.”
Salloi’s goal became even more important after Bradley Wright-Phillips pulled one back in the first minute of second-half stoppage time. Gonzalo Veron took a shot that Tim Melia got down to his right to save, but Wright-Phillips pounced on the rebound and put the hearts of most Sporting KC supporters into their throats as they narrowed the margin to 2-1.
For Wright-Phillips, it was his fourth goal of the 2017 US Open Cup, leaving him tied for the tournament lead in goals and puts him alone at the top of the competition’s scoring chart (4 goals, 1 assist, 9 points). Wright Phillips is just the second New York player to lead the tournament in scoring, the first was Amado Guevara (4 goals, 2 assists) in 2003.
Sporting KC’s defense absorbed quite a bit of pressure during the total of six minutes of stoppage time added on to the second half, but they managed to close out the game and claim the club’s third title in six years, but only the first Open Cup title that didn’t require extra time.
Vermes spoke in the post-game press conference about how a lot of people were talking about the young players New York had, but he wanted to make sure his young players got credit for how well they played.
“Yeah, I mean, you guys need to take note,” Vermes said. “Obviously not only did Jimmy Medranda come in, you had (Daniel) Salloi, Ilie, Kevin (Oliveira) who we just signed last week. So, when you look at those things, it’s a real credit to the structure that we put in place here and being able to bring those guys along. Our B Team, the Swope Park Rangers, the coaching staff has done a great job in preparing those guys for the first team. So, to see those guys come on to the field and help us secure a championship is an incredible confidence builder for those guys. Because the other piece is that our older players are doing the mentoring that they need to do to bring those guys along for them to understand that this club truly is about winning. It’s not just talk. So now that they’ve had this.
With the win, Sporting Kansas City wins $250,000 in prize money and a spot in the 2019 CONCACAF Champions League. New York wins $60,000 as the runner-up. FC Cincinnati was awarded $15,000 as the Division 2 club to advance the farthest (Semifinals) and Christos FC also won $15,000 as the Division 4 (amateur) club to reach the farthest (Round 4).
HIGHLIGHTS: 2017 US OPEN CUP FINAL
SPORTING KC: ROAD TO 2017 US OPEN CUP TITLE
POSTGAME: GRAHAM ZUSI
POSTGAME: ROGER ESPINOZA
POSTGAME: MATT BESLER