Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sporting KC advances to U.S. Open Cup semifinals with 3-0 victory

Sporting Kansas City advanced to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cupsemifinals with a 3-0 victory over the Dayton Dutch Lions (USL PRO) at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park on Tuesday.

Forward C.J. Sapong scored twice and Jimmy Nielsen posted his second consecutive U.S. Open Cup shutout to move Sporting KC into the semifinals against the Philadelphia Union on July 11 at PPL Park.

Sapong opened the scoring in the game’s fifth minute in fortuitous circumstance, finding himself in the right place at the right time to redirect Seth Sinovic’s long-range shot mid-route. The deflection shifted Sinovic’s shot to the opposite side of the goal, leaving Dayton goalkeeper Matt Williams out of position and unable to recover in time.

Sapong, the reigning MLS Rookie of the Year, continued to threaten on a night that would see him record a single-game career-high seven shots. In the 12th minute, his header went over the bar on a cross from Michael Harrington. One minute later, his shot from the left side went right at Williams.

The Dutch Lions showed early signs of equalizing when Nixon Dias shot narrowly over the bar, the first of four shots for the visitors.

Defender Matt Besler, who made his return from a three-match absence while recovering from appendicitis, sent in a trademark long throw in the 18th minute. Sapong’s flick found Lawrence Olum at the back post but his header was quickly cleared away by an alert Dayton defender.

Dayton’s Thomas Garner made a strong run forward at the 27-minute mark, racing toward the endline on the right side of the penalty area and playing a ball back for Dias.

Goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen made a superb stop on the first-time shot, though Gerrit-Jan Bartels was ruled to be obstructing the Sporting KC captain in an active offside position.

Nielsen was called into action again four minutes later, coming off his line quickly to collect a loose ball as Harrington held off the threatening Gibson Bardsley.

Zusi made an attempt at the spectacular with five minutes to play in the first half, letting loose on a shot from inside midfield in an attempt to catch Williams off his line. The long-range blast looked promising for a moment but sailed-wide.

Sporting KC could have taken a 2-0 lead into halftime, but Jacob Peterson’s shot banged off the near post after a give-and-go with Sapong.

The second half saw more attacking from Sporting Kansas City which paid off with two goals and ample chances.

Sporting KC’s first chance of the second half came in the 54th minute when Sapong charged down the left flank and shot right-footed for the near post but was denied by Williams.

Sporting Kansas City notched their second goal of the match in the 56th minute when Peterson received a cross from Sinovic and tapped the ball back to Zusi, who took a curling shot from 20 yards out that sailed around Williams and into the net.

Just three minutes later, Sapong scored his second goal of the match with a precise header off of a corner kick from Soony Saad. The goal, Sapong’s fifth in U.S. Open Cup competition, moves him into a tie atop the team’s all-time chart for goals in U.S. Open Cup play and the club improves to 13-0-0 in all competition when Sapong scores.

The chances continued to come for Sporting Kansas City, notably in the 66th minute with a cross from Peterson on the right that was served across the goal to the foot of Sinovic, who made a sliding shot into the outside netting.

Sporting Kansas City comfortably kept possession for the remainder of the half and looked to bag a fourth goal in the 84th minute with a point-blank shot from second-half substitute Teal Bunbury, but he was denied by a commendable, sliding save from Williams.

Dayton had their best chance in the second half in the 88th minute when Bret Jones’ header from the top of the penalty area looped narrowly over the crossbar.

Sporting Kansas City will return to MLS action at 7:00 p.m. CT on Friday against the Chicago Fire at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park.