Diego Rubio came off the bench to score an extra time winner and send Sporting Kansas City through to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 with a 2-1 victory over Minnesota United FC on Wednesday night. Benny Feilhaber and Christian Ramirez exchanged penalty kicks in the second half of a hotly contested match at National Sports Center Stadium in Blaine, Minnesota, setting the stage for Rubio's decisive strike in the 109th minute.
Sporting Kansas City will continue its pursuit of a fourth U.S. Open Cup title on June 28 or 29 with the Round of 16 draw taking place at 11 a.m. CT Thursday to determine opponent, date and location. If Sporting Kansas City is awarded the right to host, the match will be included in season ticket packages as Special Game A and single-game tickets will go on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. CT Friday.
One of 14 MLS clubs still alive in the tournament, defending champion Sporting Kansas City improved to 7-0-1 all-time in the U.S. Open Cup Round of 32. Meanwhile, Minnesota United FC failed to reach the final 16 for a fourth straight year.
UPHORIA: The day after Sporting KC wins, Sporting KC Uphoria users can enjoy a complementary appetizer with a $20 purchase at No Other Pub in the Kansas City Power & Light District (1370 Grand Blvd.).
PAPA JOHN'S: The day after Sporting KC scores two or more goals, use promo code SPORTINGKC at papajohns.com to get 50% off each regular menu price pizza in an order placed with participating KC area locations.
Manager Peter Vermes coached his 270th match on Wednesday, tying Bob Gansler as Sporting Kansas City's longest-tenured manager. His team began its U.S. Open Cup title defense with a strong lineup featuring two changes from the most recent MLS match a fortnight ago. Goalkeeper Alec Kann made his second appearance of the season, while Soni Mustivar had returned from Copa America duty with Haiti to join a midfield trio alongside Roger Espinoza and Benny Feilhaber.
Facing just their third road test in the U.S. Open Cup since 2011 and visiting lower-league opposition for the first time since 2009, Sporting Kansas City created the first scoring chance of the evening. Ike Opara's long ball over the back line reached Dom Dwyer, who drove toward goal before firing a left-footed shot from the right side of the box. Minnesota center back Damion Lowe was well-positioned to make the crucial block, denying Dwyer a club-record sixth Open Cup goal.
The English striker nearly broke the deadlock again in the 21st minute. Jimmy Medranda floated a brilliant ball over the leaping Lowe to Dwyer, who settled the ball with a sublime first touch, but his blast was snuffed out by onrushing goalkeeper Sammy Ndjock.
Seven minutes earlier, Minnesota gave Sporting Kansas City its biggest scare of the first half. Justin Davis' high-arching cross to the far post reached Danny Cruz, but the winger was unable to keep the ball inbounds along the byline.
An explosive second half plus extra time saw 11 different players receive yellow cards, seven of which from Minnesota United FC. Emotions escalated shortly after the restart when Espinoza, Ndjock and Lowe were all booked after a mass confrontation that stemmed from Lowe’s aggressive slide tackle on Dwyer.
Medranda proved a difference maker in the 63rd minute, spinning around one defender and cutting past three more before feeding Dwyer near the penalty spot. The forward’s shot was blocked by Brett Kallman, but the center back touched the ball with his hand when falling to the turf. Sporting Kansas City was awarded a penalty kick, and Feilhaber made no mistake slotting the ball low into the right corner on 65 minutes for his third goal in 2016 across all competitions.
Seeking its second-ever win against MLS opposition, Minnesota seized attacking initiative after falling behind. With 10 minutes left in regulation, winger Danny Cruz raced down the right flank and was tripped on the edge of the box by Medranda. The tackle appeared to have occurred just beyond the penalty area, but the Loons were given a spot kick and a chance to level proceedings. Ramirez, the second-leading scorer during the 2016 NASL spring season, tucked his attempt low to Kann's left to restore parity.
High on momentum, the Loons nearly grabbed a match-winner before the end of regulation. Substitute J.C. Banks led a quick break downfield and picked out an open Stefanho Pinho on the left side of the box, but the reigning NASL MVP skied his shot high and wide of the target.
Both sides survived close calls in the final moments of the first extra time period. In the 102nd minute, an intricate buildup from the visitors culminated in Espinoza cutting the ball across the face of goal to Chance Myers, whose one-time strike was blocked. At the other end, Opara delivered the defensive play of the game by sliding at full stretch to block Ramirez’s blistering shot from point-blank range.
Rubio entered the match halfway through extra time and made a game-changing impact 11 minutes from the final whistle. Feilhaber did superbly to carry the ball into the attacking third before splitting the defense with a clever pass to Rubio. The 23-year-old Chilean turned goalward and finished clinically, putting Sporting Kansas City ahead for good while notching his second goal of the campaign. Feilhaber extended his club record with a sixth career U.S. Open Cup assist on the play.
Minnesota’s last-gasp bid for another equalizer almost came to fruition in the 121st minute. A long, looping pass was played into heavy traffic where Lowe and Kann both elevated to win the ball. Lowe's head got to it first, but Kann's fist applied the slightest of touches to deflect the bouncing ball inches wide of the left post.
Sporting Kansas City (5-8-3, 18 points) will resume its 2016 MLS regular season campaign on Sunday, hosting FC Dallas (8-4-4, 28 points) at Children's Mercy Park. The match will kick off at 4 p.m. CT and a limited number of tickets, including standing-room only tickets, are available via Ticketmaster.com. ESPN and ESPN Deportes will broadcast the match live as eighth-place Sporting KC looks to gain ground in the Western Conference against their second-place counterparts.
2016 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup
Fourth Round (Round of 32)
National Sports Center Stadium | Blaine, Minnesota
Weather: 73 degrees and cloudy
Quotes: Manager Peter Vermes
Watch: Full match
|Sporting Kansas City (MLS)||0||1||0||1||2|
|Minnesota United FC (NASL)||0||1||0||0||1|
Sporting Kansas City: Alec Kann; Saad Abdul-Salaam (Chance Myers 99), Ike Opara, Lawrence Olum, Jimmy Medranda; Soni Mustivar, Benny Feilhaber, Roger Espinoza; Jacob Peterson (Brad Davis 91), Dom Dwyer (Diego Rubio 106), Connor Hallisey
Subs Not Used: Tim Melia, Kevin Ellis, Jordi Quintilla, Justin Mapp
Minnesota United FC: Sammy Ndjock; Kevin Venegas, Damion Lowe, Brent Kallman, Justin Davis; Juliano Vicentini (J.C. Banks 78), Jeb Brovsky, Ibson (Ben Speas 61); Daniel Cruz, Christian Ramirez, Stefano Pinho
Subs Not Used: Kristian Nicht, Lance Laing, Aaron Pitchkolan, Jamie Watson
|Shots on Goal||4||2|
SKC -- Ike Opara (caution; unsporting behavior) 51
MNU -- Sammy Ndjock (caution; argument) 55
SKC -- Roger Espinoza (caution; argument) 55
MNU -- Damion Lowe (caution; argument) 56
MNU -- Juliano Vicentini (caution; unsporting behavior) 57
MNU -- Danny Cruz (caution; unsporting behavior) 68
SKC -- Saad Abdul-Salaam (caution; unsporting behavior) 69
MNU -- Ben Speas (caution; unsporting behavior) 72
SKC -- Lawrence Olum (caution; unsporting behavior) 75
MNU -- Brent Kallman (caution; unsporting behavior) 117
MNU -- Justin Davis (caution; unsporting behavior) 122+
SKC -- Benny Feilhaber 1 (penalty kick) 65
MNU -- Christian Ramirez 1 (penalty kick) 81
SKC -- Diego Rubio 1 (Benny Feilhaber 1) 109