Sporting Kansas City did something Wednesday night that no team across any level of U.S. Soccer had been able to do in the last four years: Defeat the Seattle Sounders in the U.S. Open Cup.
Sporting Kansas City captured its second U.S. Open Cup in franchise history, outlasting the Sounders in penalties 3-2 after a 1-1 draw through regulation and extra time and ending the Sounders' hopes of becoming the first team to win four straight tournament titles. As a result, Sporting KC earns an berth into the 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League in addition to pocketing $100,000 in prize money.
Seattle held a brief edge early in the shootout, with Michael Gspurning saving Roger Espinoza's attempt and Marc Burch giving the Sounders a 2-1 lead.
Gspurning was at the heart of the real turning point in the PK shootout, though, with the count at 2-2. He was whistled for coming off his line too early by referee Ricardo Salazar prior to saving Paulo Nagamura's attempt, and Nagamura went on to score the re-take. Eddie Johnson skied Seattle's final attempt on the ensuing kick to end the match and send the capacity crowd at Livestrong Sporting Park into a frenzy.
Osvaldo Alonso and Christian Tiffert also missed for Seattle, which converted its first two penalties before missing the final three. Sporting KC was marginally better, but had Graham Zusi attempt a Panenka only to chip it over the bar in addition to Espinoza's failed conversion. Espinoza, who just rejoined the team from his Olympic quest with Honduras and was playing with an injured shoulder, played all 120 minutes.
Sporting KC looked to be in position to capture the 99th Open Cup title in regulation, after Patrick Ianni was whistled for a handball in the box off a cross from Teal Bunbury in the 84th minute. Kei Kamara stepped to the spot and beat Gspurning to snap the scoreless deadlock.
Zach Scott answered for Seattle just two minutes later, though, heading home a well-placed free kick from Mauro Rosales to level the score and conjure memories of past Seattle-Kansas City matchups, during which Seattle scored in the final minutes to shatter SKC's hopes. This script had a different ending though, with Sporting KC emerging victorious and lifting the trophy for the first time since 2004.
Overall, the game was marked by physical play and a dearth of quality chances. Jimmy Nielsen came up big in the first half, denying Johnson of a goal-bound header that looked destined for the lower right corner in the 30th minute. Six minutes prior to that, Kamara hit the post with a dipping shot from distance, but neither side truly threatened until the final flurry at the end of regulation.
What did you think of the match? Was Salazar's call on Gspurning too harsh? Excited to see what Sporting KC can do in the CCL next year?
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