Sporting KC defeat Philadelphia Union on penalties to win Open Cup
CHESTER, Pa. —
Even the players did not want this Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final to end. One by one, they stepped up to the penalty spot and sorted out their duties. It took eight rounds to separate Philadelphia Union and Sporting Kansas City after the two sides played to a 1-1 draw after extra time. And it required a considerable dose of composure from Jordi Quintilla to separate them for good and lift Sporting to a third title in four seasons.
Quintilla kept his composure and slotted home the winner past Union goalkeeper John McCarthy — a van Gaal-esque substitution on the cusp of penalties — to send PPL Park home in heartbreak for the second consecutive year.
Philadelphia entered this final determined to atone for the defeat and secured the opener through Sebastien Le Toux after 22 minutes. Sporting issued its response after the break when Krisztian Nemeth curled home his equalizer just after the hour.
The commitment displayed by both teams created plenty of intrigue and opened the game up considerably, but the application did not yield a winner in normal or extra time.
McCarthy and Sporting goalkeeper Tim Melia produced one save each during the five initial kicks, but Melia produced the decisive stop when he thwarted Andrew Wenger in the eighth round. The block set the stage for Quintilla to convert and dash the Union’s hope for a second straight year.
Both teams embraced the showpiece in the early stages. There were earnest tackles flying in midfield and spaces emerging as players closed down willingly all over the park. The balance and the soggy weather created ample incentive to operate directly and test the opposing defense as quickly as possible.
Benny Feilhaber emerged from the midfield clutter to create the match’s first chance inside the opening quarter of an hour. Feilhaber drifted toward the right to play a one-two with Chance Myers and reached the endline after riding through Cristian Maidana’s challenge. The resulting cross fell to Graham Zusi at the back post. Zusi cushioned the ball down for Nagamura to skim his effort off the far post. Union goalkeeper Andre Blake — selected ahead of John McCarthy after making 10 saves in a 1-1 draw at New England on Saturday — gratefully clutched the ball to his chest.
The foray offered a flicker of Sporting’s menace, but the balance of the game started to sway toward Philadelphia. The midfield scrap consigned Feilhaber to a peripheral influence, while Fabinho held up under the scrutiny on the right. The defiant shield established by Nogueira and Michael Lahoud allowed the Union to claim possession and proceed with haste.
Philadelphia unsettled Sporting by playing over the top. The line of inquiry examined Kevin Ellis’ vulnerabilities in the air — his inability to clear presented C.J. Sapong with a glorious chance to scuff straight into Melia — and ultimately yielded the opener after 22 minutes.
Noguiera collected in midfield and curled a wonderful ball into the vacated right channel. Le Toux raced around Seth Sinovic and took full advantage of Melia’s reluctance to address the situation. He summarily slotted home his record 16th Open Cup goal to ensure Nogueira’s sumptuous delivery received the conclusion it deserved.
The goal boosted the Union considerably and reaffirmed the benefits of trying to whisk play through quickly. Tranquillo Barnetta and Cristian Maidana struggled to find the game, but Noguiera exerted influence in their stead. Another ball into that same channel caught Sinovic out and forced Melia to block twice to send Sporting into halftime with only a slender deficit to overturn.
Sporting regrouped during the interval and started to present a more credible threat after the break. Myers saw a goal correctly ruled out after he kicked Blake in the head as the two challenged for the ball along the goal line. The fullback somehow escaped further rebuke as Sporting continued to pile on the pressure until the Union eventually conceded the equalizer.
Myers found himself at the crux of the move as he funneled toward Zusi on the right side of the penalty area. Zusi accomplished a feat no one else mustered — beating the industrious Lahoud to the spot — to square the ball toward the far post. Nemeth maintained his streak of scoring in every Open Cup appearance this season with cool, curling finish inside the far post to restore parity.
Union coach Jim Curtin responded by replacing the ineffective Maidana with Conor Casey to buttress the aerial options. Barnetta promptly slipped Casey behind the Sporting line, but Melia reacted alertly to cut down the angle and push the effort away.
Both teams huffed and puffed in the final quarter of an hour without mustering the quality required to decide the game in normal time. Second-half substitute Jordi Quintilla fired wide of the far post to send the final into extra time for the second consecutive year.
All of the endeavor of the opening 90 minutes carried through, but the requisite precision did not follow. Both teams applied themselves willingly and chased the game with vigor, yet they settled for half-chances and hopeful service more often than not.
Curtin channeled his inner Louis van Gaal and replaced Blake with McCarthy on the cusp of penalties. The move worked as McCarthy produced a save to keep his side alive after Melia produced a block on Edu, but the shooters took center stage. Back and forth they went until the eighth round of penalties. Melia dove low to his right to block Wenger’s effort and pave the way for Quintilla to coolly slot home and give Sporting a third trophy in four years.