Thursday, August 9, 2012

Sporting Kansas City Defeat Seattle for the US Open Cup

Article by Luke Lohr

It may not have been pretty, but it was dramatic. The Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Final ended in penalty kicks with the hosts capturing their second Open Cup Championship in franchise history. In winning the tournament, Sporting Kansas City accomplished a feat that no other team had previously accomplished in the last four years. The men in blue deafeated the Seattle Sounders to earn their title.

Prior to this match, Seattle had been undefeated in Open Cup play since becoming an MLS franchise. By winning the match Sporting Kansas City captured a trophy, $100,000 in prize money and perhaps most importantly, a berth in the 2013-2014 CONCACAF Champions League.

The match took place in front of a packed crowd of 18,863 at LiveStrong Sporting Park. The packed house was adorned in blue and held strong despite lightning delays, questionable calls and less than inspiring soccer from both sides for much of the game.

Seattle's much discussed strikers were largely ineffective with Fredy Montero in particular playing the part of Colombian ghost. Much of the battle between the two squads took place in the midfield, where it was Roger Espinoza and Osvaldo Alonso did battle. Espinoza was coming off a remarkably impressive Olympics and worked himself to the bone through this match as well. He and Alonso were both on the giving and receiving end of some serious tackles and several scuffles. Rosales and Nagamura also made their presences felt, with Nagamura playing much of the match with a bloody bandage on his face courtesy of an early collision.

Teal Bunbury and Kei Kamara lead the charge for Sporting Kansas City, who had the better chances on the night. Still, it took a Sounders handball in the box by Zach Scott for Sporting to take the lead. In the 84th minute Kei Kamara stepped up and converted a penalty kick, sending the home crowd into a frenzy.

However, it was cancelled out just two minutes later when Scott got the best of his man on a free kick by Mauro Rosales. Scott got on the end of the kick and headed it home past goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen who otherwise had a fantastic night.

Following two periods of extra time and a second yellow card to Patrick Ianni, the match went to penalty kicks. It was here where controversy reigned supreme.

Kamara converted for KC while Brad Evens put Seattle on the board. Osvaldo Alonso sent his right footed PK shoot high and wide right but Graham Zusi tried to be cheeky, only to fake himself out and send it over the bar. Paulo Nagamura had his first shot saved by Gspurning, who had a decent night out overall, only to be awarded a second attempt after referee Ricardo Salazar said Gspurning was illegally off his line.

This left the final kick for Seattle to the reborn Eddie Johnson. With ten goals in the league, the mercurial striker had a chance to cement his rebirth by keeping the Sounders in the shootout. However, Johnson stepped up to the spot only to blast his shot over the bar, sealing the victory for Sporting Kansas City.

With the win, Sporting earns their first trophy since their re-branding and first since LiveStrong Park has opened. It was an apt reward for a fanbase who has been through much in recent years.

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