When you are the captain of a club, you are the heartbeat, you represent everything that happens to that club whether it is on or off the pitch. When Sporting Kansas City needed him, the captain responded. Thanks to Johnny Russell’s brace, Sporting Kansas City defeated Houston Dynamo 2-1 in the 2022 US Open Cup Round of 16.
It has become one of the most common, and most competitive matchups of the Open Cup’s Modern Era with these two teams squaring off in five of the last six tournaments. With Wednesday’s win, Sporting has claimed three victories in those five meetings. In the two previous victories over the Dynamo in the Open Cup (2015, 2017), Kansas City would go on to lift the trophy.
The win earns KC a third straight home game in the competition in the Quarterfinals where they will host Union Omaha (USL League One) the week of June 21-22. (Date/Time TBA)
Houston opened the scoring in the 41st minute as Corey Baird received a through ball in-between Sporting’s center backs. The pass came from 2019 TheCup.us Player of the Tournament Darwin Quintero who found Baird nicely. Baird calmly slotted the shot around Sporting’s goalkeeper John Pulskamp.
Houston led 1-0 at the halftime break as Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes brought on Khiry Shelton and Roger Espinoza into the lineup. The impact of these subs seemed to work instantly as the team began to gel more.
The tying goal came shorty after the halftime break as Dynamo tried to clear the ball away from a Logan Ndenbe cross. But, it went as far as Russell was only five yards outside of the box.
Russell used an incredible soft touch to bring the ball out of the air. Four Dynamo defenders surrounded the Scottish international. He broke loose and fired a shot low and hard towards the goal which bounced out of the reach of Dynamo keeper Michael Nelson.
“I think we created chances in the first half. There was just a couple of little tactical things that we had worked on that we weren’t doing on the field,” Russell said. “I think we stepped higher as a team. When we’ve got the energy and the guys that can press the way that we can, we won a lot of balls up the field and that equates to chances and we took them.”
In the 72nd minute, Sporting were on the attack, once again. Daniel Salloi received the ball outside of the box on the right wing and drove towards the byline. He got around Houston’s Daniel Steres who put out a leg and brought Salloi to the ground. The referee blew his whistle and the penalty was called.
Stepping to the spot, the captain. Russell placed the ball to the ground and delivered a gorgeous penalty that flew into the right portion of the goal. Nelson guessed correctly, but Russell’s shot was too powerful.
“It’s what the captain is supposed to do. At the end of the day, that’s why he’s the captain and I don’t mean that comically. He’s the captain. He’s the leader,” Vermes said. “That’s why the guys respect him. He brings it to the game, week in and week out, and that’s why the team follows him.”
The two goals for Russell was the difference on the night as Kansas City continued to control the game, until the Dynamo tried to equalize. The best chance for Houston came in the 80 minute when Fafa Picault received the ball on the left wing and sprinted towards Pulskamp. Picault fired a low shot which Pulskamp stood strong denying the Colombian.
Full time whistle blared and Kansas City finished as the victors in the Round of 16, earning the club a 12th quarterfinal appearance, which ranks fifth-most in the history of the tournament.
Union Omaha awaits for Sporting Kansas City. The third division club knocked off Minnesota United 2-1, which has caught Vermes’ attention.
|US Open Cup Quarterfinal |
|1. Kutis SC – 17|
2. FC Dallas – 16
3. Chicago Fire – 14
4. LA Galaxy – 13
5. Greek American AC (Calif.) – 12
5. Ukrainian Nationals – 12
5. SPORTING KC – 12
“They got this far for a reason, obviously. They’re playing well. We have to get ourselves prepared, at least for this weekend,” Vermes said. “When that game comes around, believe me, we will do everything that we have to try to put our best group out there and we will fight with everything we have because we know that’s going to be an incredibly difficult game.”
Kansas City and Union Omaha have a history as the club from Nebraska coached by Jay Mims played Sporting II in a preseason friendly this year. Vermes shared their relationship bluntly.
“I know him, but it’s not like we hang out every night,” Vermes said with a smile.
Mims will bring his Union Omaha side to Sporting Kansas City in the U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinals on Wednesday, June 22 at 7:30 p.m.