Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sporting KC advances to U.S. Open Cup Final with 2-0 victory at Philadelphia Union

Sporting Kansas City advanced to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final with a 2-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park on Wednesday night.

Sporting KC striker Jacob Peterson opened the scoring with his header on a Graham Zusi free kick in the 65th minute before Zusi sealed the win with a 60-yard goal from midfield in second half stoppage time.

The first forty-five minutes was predominantly a defensive battle as neither side sawmany goal scoring opportunities. However, it was Sporting Kansas City who saw the first chance, as Jacob Peterson’s long throw-in was re-directed on goal forcing Philadelphia goalkeeper Zac MacMath to tip it over the crossbar for a Sporting Kansas City corner kick.

Just ten minutes later, it was Sporting Kansas City again on the attack. Midfielder Paulo Nagamura found Kei Kamara on the right flank and the Sierra Leone international drew a foul when Union defender Carlos Valdez stepped out to make a challenge on the play. Graham Zusi’s free kick was headed away by a Philadelphia defender, but the clearance fell right into the path of Seth Sinovic whose shot from 40 yards out was driven low and wide of the right post.

Philadelphia Union saw their first quality chance of the match in the 26th minute when Michael Lahoud connected with Freddy Adu on the left flank. Adu drove to the end line, beating Sporting Kansas City defender Aurelien Collinm before sending it into the mix. A collective effort of recovering Sporting Kansas City defenders denied a Philadelphia shot and Collin cleared the ball from danger.

In the 31st minute, Philadelphia saw their best chance of the half as Michael Farfan’s free kick was placed just high of frame by Jack McInerney.

Peterson created the most dangerous opportunity for either side in the first half of play, flighting a ball from the right flank in an attempt to connect with Kei Kamara on the back post. The ball was just out of reach for Kamara, but the ball was chased down and played back into Philadelphia’s penalty area and it was Peterson who dove to get his head on the cross. His header nearly reached Teal Bunbury but Carlos Valdes and Gabriel Farfan intervened at the last moment.

Philadelphia saw the last chance before halftime as Lionard Pajoy received a pass from Michael Farfan, but a brilliant sliding challenge by Collin put the ball back in Sporting Kansas City’s possession and out of trouble.

In a match that featured 38 fouls, it was a set piece that Sporting Kansas City capitalized on for the eventual game-winning goal. Peterson positioned himself well on a Zusi free kick from the right flank and placed his header past Philadelphia goalkeeper Zac MacMath to give Sporting Kansas City the 1-0 lead in the 65th minute.

Sporting Kansas City came close to doubling the advantage within a minute when Kamara played second-half substitute C.J. Sapong in behind the Union’s backline. The reigning rookie of the year pushed his shot past MacMath but the attempt hit the post and rolled out for a Philadelphia goal kick.

Philadelphia responded two minutes later with an opportunity of their own as Gabriel Gomez found Adu just inside the 18 yard-box.

The 23-year-old slipped a pass to Jack McInerney right in front on the Sporting Kansas City goal mouth, drawing goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen off his line to make a challenge on the play.

The ball deflected straight up in the air off Nielsen and Sporting KC defender Seth Sinovic was able to knock the ball away from the goalline to preserve the 1-0 lead.

In the face of elimination, the Union began sending numbers forward to try and find an equalizer. In the 89th minute, Philadelphia came close as Amobi Okugo flighted the ball to Adu, open on the backpost. Adu settled with his first touch before firing a left-footed volley, which sailed well over the cross bar.

MacMath was nearly at half-field during second half stoppage time to aid in the attack and his header under pressure from Sapong fell into the path of Zusi.

His former Maryland teammate one-timed a volley from midfield over MacMath and into the empty net to seal the victory in the third minute of stoppage time.

Sporting Kansas City reaches the U.S. Open Cup Final for the second time in club history, having won the tournament in 2004 at Arrowhead Stadium.

They’ll meet the Seattle Sounders FC, who were 4-1 winners over Chivas USA in Wednesday’s other semifinal and who have won each of the last three U.S. Open Cup tournaments.

Sporting Kansas City will host the Seattle Sounders FC on August 8 at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park with the opportunity to lift the Dewar Challenge Trophy and secure a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League.

Current Season Ticket Members will be able to secure their seats for the championship match in an exclusive pre-sale beginning at 10:00 a.m. CT on Thursday by logging onto their Account Manager. Season Ticket Members may then purchase additional seats from 10:00 a.m. CT on Monday, July 16 through 10:00 a.m. CT on Tuesday, July 17, at which point tickets go on sale to the general public.