By TATE STEINLAGE
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — “For the longest time it seemed like it wasn’t our day.”
That’s how Sporting Kansas City forward Soony Saad described the first 49 minutes of Wednesday night’s 2-0 victory over Minnesota United FC in the fourth round of the 2014 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. However, a 50th minute red card and goals from Saad and Alex Martinez would see the MLS side through to the next round.
Minnesota United FC defender Cristiano Dias was shown the game’s controversial red card early in the second half for a high elbow that made contact with forward Dom Dwyer. The decision put the NASL side down a man for more than 40 minutes, forcing the visitors to play defense for most of that time.
“I thought it ruined a good night of soccer,” Minnesota United FC manager Manny Lagos said. “I thought two teams were playing well and pushing the game both ways. I thought it was a good game. I would say (that was) maybe a yellow — maybe. The frustrating thing on that play is that you got a kid going down (on what looked like) a hard, honest challenge and instead of the ref going over and seeing how the kid is, he just gives a straight red. Next thing you know the kid’s back in the game five seconds later, and it’s a red? No way.”
Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes saw the challenge differently.
“I think it was a very dangerous challenge, I really do,” Vermes said. “We have seen in our league on a regular basis that there are all kinds of red cards. We’ve been on the other side of those many of times, things that are not even close to that kind of challenge. I thought it was a very dangerous, reckless tackle in the air.”
The man advantage gave Sporting KC legs to finally push forward after looking stagnant at best in the opening 45 minutes. A payoff would come 26 minutes later with Saad drilling a goal from 25 yards out to beat the keep to his right.
“I think I had a couple that I thought were in for sure today, but it was nice to have that one finally slide in,” Saad said. “It took a lot of pressure off (me), and it’s good to move on to the next round.”
The game opened up from there as Minnesota United FC was forced to vacate its red card-induced bunker. Substitute midfielder Alex Martinez jumped on the opportunity to take advantage of an opening in the 87th minute to tally his first professional goal — a confident smash from 10 yards out.
“I don’t think me scoring a goal or not scoring a goal gives me a different confidence,” Martinez said when asked about his recent surge in Vermes’ system. “I try to play with confidence every time. I try to help the team win and hopefully there are many more to come.”
Sporting KC now advance to the fifth round of the 2014 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup where it’ll play host to the Portland Timbers next Tuesday at 8:30 p.m.