Sporting Kansas City were crowned champions of the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday night, defeating the New York Red Bulls 2-1 in a nail-biting final at sold-out Children’s Mercy Park.
A 25th-minute header from Latif Blessing and a 66th-minute strike from Daniel Salloi were just enough to secure victory as Sporting Kansas City continued their mastery of North America’s oldest soccer tournament, lifting the Open Cup title for the fourth time overall and the third time since 2012.
The Red Bulls grabbed a goal back through Bradley Wright-Phillips in the 91st minute — making for a tense final few minutes — but the visitors were unable to find a last-gasp equalizer.
Another euphoric dose of Open Cup glory makes Sporting Kansas City the only MLS club with four major championships over the last six seasons. Manager Peter Vermes also becomes just the second coach ever to win an MLS Cup (2013) and three Open Cup titles (2012, 2015, 2017), continuing an era of trophy-laden success in Kansas City since the turn of the decade.
Vermes and New York head coach Jesse Marsch fielded full-strength lineups Wednesday in the inaugural Open Cup meeting between the MLS charter members, played before a national television audience on ESPN2. An electric atmosphere at Children’s Mercy Park set the stage for a breathless start as both clubs threatened within the first quarter-hour.
Diego Rubio nearly played Gerso through on goal in just the third minute, but a heroic sliding challenge from Kemar Lawrence extinguished the danger. Sacha Kljestan was involved in a pair of opportunities at the opposite end, seeing a low drive parried away by Tim Melia before teeing up Tyler Adams for a tame effort that the Sporting KC goalkeeper saved comfortably.
The hosts drew first blood in the 25th minute on a wonderfully worked move as Feilhaber spread the ball to Graham Zusi on the right flank. The U.S. international was afforded space to curl a superb cross into the six-yard area for Blessing, who at 5-foot-3 rose high to steer a powerful header past outstretched goalkeeper Ryan Meara and ignite wild celebrations inside the stadium. It was Blessing’s third goal of the 2017 Open Cup campaign, while Zusi—making his 250th competitive appearance for Sporting KC — recorded his team-leading eighth assist of the year.
Momentum had tilted in favor of Sporting Kansas City toward the end of the first half, and the Red Bulls nearly fell two behind in the 41st minute. Blessing raced onto the end of a cleared New York free kick and lofted a long ball over the top to Gerso, who galloped downfield with only Meara to beat. Yet the Red Bulls goalkeeper would produce a heroic stop to keep his side within a goal.
On the ensuing corner kick, Zusi’s teasing delivery was directed onto the crossbar by Roger Espinoza. Besler’s header on the rebound was then palmed wide by Meara as the Red Bulls survived yet another massive scare. A thigh contusion forced Blessing to exit the match just seconds later, summoning the introduction of 21-year-old Salloi.
The Red Bulls’ tails were up after the restart, with Melia reacting well to smother a volley from Wright-Phillips. Kljestan then tried his luck from distance near the hour-mark, only for Melia to make another save.
Salloi doubled Sporting Kansas City’s lead halfway through the second period, sprinting onto a perfectly weighted long ball from Benny Feilhaber and poking past Meara, who had advanced well off his line in attempt to clear the ball. Salloi’s goal was his third in the 2017 Open Cup and gave Feilhaber his ninth career assist in the competition, the most in club history.
Just when a crowd of 21,523 thought Sporting Kansas City had sealed the win, the Red Bulls cut their deficit in half in the first minute of second-half stoppage time. Gonzalo Veron’s blistering shot through traffic was repelled by the diving Melia, but Wright-Phillips was on hand to hammer the rebound into the roof of the net for his 19th goal of the year in all competitions.
A golden opportunity for New York to restore parity fell to midfielder Felipe in the 97th minute, but his bending free kick from 22 yards skimmed inches above the crossbar. Referee Hilario Grajeda blew his full-time whistle less than a minute later.
Sporting KC’s fourth Open Cup championship ties the all-time record among MLS teams, lifting the club into rarefied air alongside the Chicago Fire and Seattle Sounders FC. Kansas City has been victorious in each of their four trips to the Open Cup final, while Vermes has won each of his four cup final appearances — including the 2013 MLS Cup — as a head coach.
With another major trophy under their belts, Sporting Kansas City will have limited time to celebrate. The race for first place in Major League Soccer’s Western Conference continues Sunday at 1 p.m. CT when Vermes’ men (11-6-11, 44 points) welcome five-time MLS Cup champion LA Galaxy (7-16-6, 27 points) to Children’s Mercy Park. Tickets for the all-important clash are available at SeatGeek.com as Sporting KC aims to extend their club-record 23-game home unbeaten streak in the MLS regular season.
2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final
Sporting Kansas City vs. New York Red Bulls
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Weather: 78 degrees and partly cloudy
|Sporting Kansas City||1||1||2|
|New York Red Bulls||0||1||1|
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi, Ike Opara, Matt Besler (C), Seth Sinovic; Roger Espinoza, Ilie, Benny Feilhaber; Gerso (Jimmy Medranda 56), Diego Rubio (Kevin Oliveira 82), Latif Blessing (Daniel Salloi 43)
Subs Not Used: Adrian Zendejas, Saad Abdul-Salaam, Erik Palmer-Brown, Cristian Lobato
New York Red Bulls: Ryan Meara; Tyler Adams, Fidel Escobar, Aaron Long, Kemar Lawrence (Sal Zizzo 66), Michael Amir Murillo; Alex Muyl (Gonzalo Veron 71), Felipe, Sacha Kljestan (C), Sean Davis (Muhamed Keita 77); Bradley Wright-Phillips
Subs Not Used: Luis Robles, Connor Lade, Dan Metzger, Derrick Etienne Jr.
|Shots on Goal||5||7|
SKC -- Seth Sinovic (caution; unsporting behavior) 4
NY -- Aaron Long (caution; unsporting behavior) 27
NY -- Tyler Adams (caution; unsporting behavior) 57
SKC -- Ike Opara (caution; unsporting behavior) 96+
SKC -- Latif Blessing 3 (Graham Zusi 2) 25
SKC -- Daniel Salloi 3 (Benny Feilhaber 3) 66
NY -- Bradley Wright-Phillips 4 (unassisted) 91+
Referee: Hilario Grajeda
Assistant Referee: Jason White
Assistant Referee: Andrew Bigelow
Fourth Official: Ismail Elfath