Sporting Kansas City opened the team's defense of the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title with a 2-0 road victory at Real Salt Lake on Wednesday inside Rio Tinto Stadium. Johnny Russell and Kharlton Belmar combined on both goals in the second half as Russell opened the scoring in the 47th minute with his team-leading sixth goal of the year and Belmar bagged his first goal in a Sporting KC uniform in the 74th minute.


Sporting KC, four-time champions in the competition (2004, 2012, 2015, 2017), now advances to the Round of 16 and will await the official draw to be conducted by U.S. Soccer on Thursday to set a fixed bracket for the remainder of the single-elimination tournament. Should Sporting KC receive hosting rights for the Round of 16, tickets for the match will be included in Sporting KC Season Ticket Member packages and single-game tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. CT on Friday via SeatGeek.com.

Recap: Sporting KC advances in Open Cup with 2-0 road win at Real Salt Lake -

With MLS road trips ahead on Saturday for two teams that sit in the top three positions in the Western Conference, both sides rotated their rosters with a mix of first team regulars and young newcomers in the mid-week match - highlighted by brothers Nick Besler and Matt Besler squaring off on opposite sides. Belmar, the USL's leading scorer with eight goals for the Swope Park Rangers in 2018, made the most of his opportunity as he marked his first start for Sporting KC with a goal and game-winning assist.


Sixteen-year-old midfielder Gianluca Busio made his Sporting KC debut, becoming the youngest player to appear in a competitive match for the club. Busio took the field alongside fellow Sporting KC Academy products Jaylin Lindsey (18), Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal (19) and Daniel Salloi (21) as Sporting KC featured three teenagers and four Homegrown Players for the first time in the team's history.


Kuzain drew an early foul on the left flank in the second minute and the ensuing free kick from Johnny Russell found Amer Didic inside the box, however the centerback's header was wide of target.


Lindsey, starting at right back in a 5-4-1 formation, burst forward in the 23rd minute and beat his man along the endline before cutting the ball back to set up a first-time effort from Busio that rolled off frame.


Russell, on his return from international duty after playing the full 90 minutes for Scotland at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City on Saturday, produced the half's only shot on goal when he came close to opening the scoring in the 43rd minute. He did well to cut inside Taylor Peay on the dribble, but couldn't beat Connor Sparrow, a former goalkeeper at UMKC, from close range.


The hosts weren't without chances of their own in the opening 45 minutes, including their best scoring opportunity in the 18th minute when Jose Hernandez drug his shot past the left post. 


Adrian Zendejas made his Sporting KC debut and was called into action in the 26th minute to push Aaron Herrera's cross over the bar. Moments later, Herrera let loose an ambitious long-range effort that sailed narrowly over the net. 


Sporting Kansas City would break the scoreless stalemate just three minutes into the second half on a sequence that started with a foray forward from centerback Emiliano Amor. The 23-year-old Argentine played a through ball to Belmar, whose first touch kept the ball in play at the endline and delivered a pinpoint pass into the path of Russell to head home from eight yards out.


Real Salt Lake would look to respond with the game's next six shots, including an attempt from 25 yards out by Luis Silva in the 57th minute and later with a shot from distance by Alfredo Ortuno in the 86th minute that both forced saves from Zendejas.


However, it would be Sporting Kansas City that found the all-important next goal on an impressive dribble into the penalty area by Russell, who capped the run by driving a low cross into the goalmouth for Belmar to slide across the line. 


Sporting KC will now travel further west to resume the MLS regular season at 9:30 p.m. CT on Saturday against the Portland Timbers FC at Providence Park. The game will be shown live on FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest Plus and FOX Sports GO in addition to radio coverage on Sports Radio 810 WHB (English) and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM (Spanish). Sporting KC supporters are invited to attend the team's official watch party at No Other Pub in the Kansas City Power and Light District with food and drink specials beginning 30 minutes before kick off.


2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup
Fourth Round (Round of 32)

Rio Tinto Stadium | Sandy, Utah
Attendance: 15,833
Weather: 88 degrees and sunny

<strong>Score</strong>
<strong>1</strong>
<strong>2</strong>
<strong>F</strong>
Sporting Kansas City (1-0-0)
0
2
2
Real Salt Lake (0-1-0)
0
0
0

Sporting Kansas City: Adrian Zendejas; Jaylin Lindsey, Amer Didic, Emiliano Amor, Matt Besler (c), Cristian Lobato (Roger Espinoza 68); Ilie, Gianluca Busio, Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal (Gerso Fernandes 83), Johnny Russell (Daniel Salloi 75); Kharlton Belmar
Subs Not Used: Eric Dick, Ike Opara, Colton Storm, Graham Zusi


Real Salt Lake: Connor Sparrow; Adam Henley, Taylor Peay, David Horst, Aaron Herrera; Pablo Ruiz, Nick Besler, Jose Hernandez; Ricky Lopez-Espin (Brooks Lennon 71), Luis Silva (Alfredo Ortuno 78), Andrew Brody
Subs Not Used: Jake Leeker, Danilo Acosta, Michael Gallagher, Sebastian Saucedo, Corey Baird


Scoring Summary:
SKC - Johnny Russell 1 (Kharlton Belmar 1) 47
SKC - Kharlton Belmar 1 (Johnny Russell 1) 74  


Misconduct Summary:
RSL - Aaron Herrera (caution; unsporting behavior) 28
RSL - Pablo Ruiz (caution; unsporting behavior) 47

<strong>Stat</strong>
<strong>SKC</strong>
<strong>RSL</strong>
Shots
7
12
Shots on Goal
4
2
Saves
2
2
Fouls
5
8
Offsides
1
2
Corner Kicks
2
5

Referee: Malik Badawi
Assistant Referee: TJ Zablocki
Assistant Referee: John Krill
Fourth Official: Brad Jensen