Second-half goals from Ike Opara and Gerso keyed Sporting Kansas City to a 2-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo in the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 on Wednesday at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston.
Opara continued his sensational run of form by heading the visitors ahead in the 61st minute — his fourth goal during the month of June and his second in as many games — before Gerso sealed the win with a classy finish in second-half stoppage time, snapping Sporting Kansas City’s five-match winless skid against the Dynamo across all competitions.
Sporting Kansas City now advances to the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals, where the club will host reigning tournament champions FC Dallas at 7:30 p.m. CT on Tuesday, July 11 at Children’s Mercy Park. The match will be included in Season Ticket Member packages as Game B and single-game tickets will go on sale to the general public tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. CT via SeatGeek.com.
With Matt Besler, Dom Dwyer and Graham Zusi joining the U.S. Men’s National Team for the CONCACAF Gold Cup and Benny Feilhaber sidelined with a foot injury, Manager Peter Vermes made four changes to his lineup from Saturday’s 2-1 win at LA Galaxy. Saad Abdul Salaam and Kevin Ellis slotted into defense alongside Opara and Seth Sinovic, Jimmy Medranda occupied the midfield with Ilie and captain Roger Espinoza, and Cameron Porter spearheaded a three-man attack flanked by Gerso and Latif Blessing.
Squaring off in the U.S. Open Cup for the third straight year, both sides traded opportunities in a back-and-forth first half. Houston’s Memo Rodriguez narrowly missed the target from distance before Medranda and Blessing both threatened with shots from the edge of the box. Houston midfielder Alex was then quick to conjure two attempts of his own, firing marginally wide on each occasion.
Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Tim Melia was forced to make a brilliant diving save in the 22nd minute, sprawling left to push Charlie Ward’s swerving missile beyond the post and behind for a corner kick. Six minutes later, Abdul-Salaam cleared Vicente Sanchez’s corner kick only as far as Kevin Garcia, who lashed just above the woodwork.
Vermes’ men improved as the half wore on, coming agonizingly close to drawing first blood in the 37th minute. Gerso’s clipped cross from the right endline was met by Medranda’s left boot, but his cannon of a strike was parried back into a crowded penalty area by Houston goalkeeper Joe Willis. Porter reacted quickly and attempted to steer a side-volley on frame, but the effort sailed wayward.
Houston was quick to create danger after intermission, as Sanchez and Andrew Wenger both spurned breakaway attempts. Melia produced a vital save on the former in the 48th minute before the latter pulled his right-footed shot wide in the 54th. The Dynamo would pay for both missed opportunities just after the hour-mark.
The match-winning goal would result from Ilie’s corner kick from the left side. The Spaniard’s delivery sailed past the far post and was cushioned back across the face of goal by the leaping Kevin Ellis. Opara rose above the rest to nod the ball into the left corner of the net, bagging his second goal in this year’s Open Cup competition.
Homegrown center back Erik Palmer-Brown, who captained the U.S. U-20 Men’s National Team at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in May and June, earned his 2017 debut as a 74th minute substitute to provide Sporting KC extra defensive protection in the late stages. Three minutes after his introduction, Medranda saw a cleanly struck volley blocked through traffic. Not long later, Blessing raced onto a lovely scoop from Gerso and chipped the onrushing Willis, but the ball drifted off target.
Gerso effectively buried Houston in the 91st minute with his team-leading eighth goal in all competitions, and his second in the Open Cup. Blessing tore down the left sideline on the counter-attack, cut centrally and delivered an inch-perfect pass to Gerso, who confidently tucked a side-footed strike low into the left corner to double the advantage and silence the BBVA Compass Stadium crowd.
With a momentous Open Cup victory under their belts, Sporting Kansas City will return to MLS regular season action on Saturday when the Portland Timbers (7-7-4, 25 points) visits Children’s Mercy Park for a nationally televised clash on ESPN. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. CT and a limited number of tickets, including standing-room only tickets, are available at SeatGeek.com. Sporting Kansas City is currently riding a 17-game home unbeaten streak in the regular season, an all-time club record and the longest active run in MLS.
2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup
Round of 16
BBVA Compass Stadium | Houston, Texas
Weather: 83 degrees and sunny
|Sporting Kansas City||0||2||2|
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Saad Abdul-Salaam (Erik Palmer-Brown 74), Ike Opara, Kevin Ellis, Seth Sinovic; Roger Espinoza (C), Ilie, Jimmy Medranda; Gerso (Kharlton Belmar 94+), Cameron Porter (Soni Mustivar 54), Latif Blessing
Subs Not Used: Andrew Dykstra, Parker Maher, Felipe Hernandez
Houston Dynamo: Joe Willis; Kevin Garcia, Jalil Anibaba, Taylor Hunter, Dylan Remick; Charlie Ward, Eric Bird (Joseph Holland 81), Andrew Wenger (Boniek Garcia 62), Alex (Ruben Luna 68), Memo Rodriguez; Vicente Sanchez (C)
Subs Not Used: Calle Brown, Kai Greene, Jose Escalante, Jorginho James
|Shots on Goal||7||2|
HOU -- Eric Bird (caution; unsporting behavior) 23
HOU -- Andrew Wenger (caution; unsporting behavior) 48
SKC -- Roger Espinoza (caution; unsporting behavior) 49
HOU -- Memo Rodriguez (caution; simulation) 64
SKC -- Ike Opara 2 (Kevin Ellis 1, Ilie 1) 61
HOU -- Gerso 2 (Latif Blessing 1) 91+
Referee: Fotis Bazakos
Assistant Referee: Jeremy Weed
Assistant Referee: Tony Obas
Fourth Official: Michael Arrington