Thursday, June 19, 2014

Sporting Kansas City advances to fifth round of Open Cup with 2-0 victory over Minnesota United FC

Sporting Kansas City defeated Minnesota United FC 2-0 Wednesday night in the fourth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Soony Saad and Alex Martinez tallied second half goals in front of 15,307 fans at Sporting Park.

Sporting KC will now host the Portland Timbers at Sporting Park on Tuesday, June 24 in the fifth round of the competition. Tickets for that match will go on sale to the general public Thursday morning at 10 a.m. CT.

Saad was a threat for Sporting KC all night and nearly put the home side ahead in the seventh minute. The 21-year-old striker picked up a pass from Seth Sinovic inside the Minnesota penalty box, shook off a defender and curled a ball to the far post. Minnesota goalkeeper Mitchell Hildebrandt took a step back, but could only watch as Saad's attempt ricocheted off the crossbar.

Minnesota had a flurry of chances midway through the first half, but goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum - who made his first start for Sporting Kansas City - was up to the task. Gruenebaum caught Christian Ramirez's floating shot in the 22nd minute and did well to stop Kevin Venegas' near-post attempt in the 31st minute.

The visitors had one more opportunity before halftime to break through, but Daniel Mendes' driven attempt to the far post skipped past a sliding Ramirez.

Victor Munoz made his Sporting KC debut Wednesday night, but the affair was short-lived as the Spanish midfielder was subbed of in the 36th minute after suffering an apparent leg injury.

The game turned in Sporting KC's favor in the 50th minute when referee Tyler Ploeger issued Cristiano Dias a straight red card for a hard challenge on forward Dom Dwyer.

Following the ejection, Hildebrandt did his best to prevent Sporting KC from capitalizing on the man advantage. The 25-year-old goalkeeper stopped point-blank attempts from Dwyer in the 64th minute and Sinovic a minute later.

Sporting KC would not be denied, however, and broke through in the 76th minute. Lawrence Olum, who wore the captain's armband with Matt Besler on national team duty, picked up a poor Minnesota clearance and quickly squared the ball to Saad. The young striker took a touch to tee up a 25-yard strike that skipped between Hildebrandt and the near post. The goal was Saad's third in four career Open Cup matches.

Sporting KC doubled its lead in the 87th minute when Martinez tallied his first professional goal. The play developed in the midfield when Toni Dovale played a through ball down the wing to Sal Zizzo. The speedy winger's initial cross was deflected, but Zizzo stayed with the play and found an open Martinez at the penalty spot. The rookie midfielder one-timed the ball into the open net to secure the victory.