Sporting Kansas City are Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup winners for the third time (2004, 2012) in their 20-year history and major trophy winners for the third time (2013 MLS Cup) in four years after knocking off the Philadelphia Union, 1-1 (7-6 on penalty kicks) at PPL Park in the final of the 102nd edition of the competition.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]
Paulo Nagamura went inches from giving the visitors a 1-0 lead in the 12th minute. Benny Feilhaber won the ball in the corner, raced along toward the penalty area and crossed to the back post. Graham Zusi corralled the wayward cross and quickly cut the ball back to Nagamura, whose shot hit the far post and bounced back into play, right into the hands of goalkeeper Andre Blake.
It wasn’t long after that Sebastien Le Toux got onto the end of Vincent Nogueira’s brilliant cross-field, diagonal ball and finished inside the far post to put the Union ahead in the 23rd minute.
Tim Melia pulled off a stunning double-save to thwart attempts by Le Toux and Tranquillo Barnetta in the 37th minute. Le Toux got in behind Seth Sinovic once again, received another one of Nogueira’s splitting passes, but his first touch took him away from goal and made the ensuing shot more difficult. Melia was out quick to make the high save. Le Toux then fed the ball to Barnetta, who cut inside onto his left foot and unleashed an effort that looked bound for the back of the net. At full stretch, Melia tipped the ball around his far post.
[ MORE MLS: Week 30 Team of the Week | Player of the Week ]
The second half began much like its predecessor, with the Union picking apart the Sporting KC midfield and defense with dangerous passes and runs through all attacking channels. Melia kept his side in the game with another pair of strong saves, which proved game-changers when Krisztian Nemeth popped up with a stunning finish in the 65th minute.
With just 25 minute left in his side’s run through the 2015 Open Cup, Nemeth found himself the recipient of a clever ball out to the left corner of the 18-yard box, courtesy of Zusi. Nemeth’s first touch? A picture-perfect, right-footed effort that bent the ball around Blake and just inside the far post.
Conor Casey subbed into the game in the 77th minute. Less than a minute later, the veteran striker found himself one on one with Melia down the left side of the six-yard box. Melia was, again, quick off his line and closed the angle down impossibly quickly and made the save.
[ MORE: Bradley speaks on “hate, passion” in U.S. vs. Mexico rivalry ]
After a largely uneventful extra time period, the score remained 1-1 and the game headed to penalty kicks. Jim Curtin did opt to sub out Blake for John McCarthy, the Union’s penalty shootout hero twice already in the 2015 Open Cup.
Le Toux and Feilhaber each converted their attempt from the spot — 1-1 after round no. 1. Nogueira and Dom Dwyer each converted in round no. 2 — 2-2.
Maurice Edu and Nemeth each saw their attempt saved in round no. 3 — 2-2. Barnetta and Matt Besler each converted their attempt in round no. 4 — 3-3.
Casey and Nagamura each converted their attempt in round no. 5 — 4-4, and onto sudden death. Michael Lahoud and Zusi each converted their attempt in round no. 6 — 5-5.
Raymon Gaddis and Kevin Ellis each converted their attempt in round no. 6 — 5-5. Andrew Wenger’s attempt in round no. 7 was saved by the leg of Melia. Jordi Quintilla stepped up next, sent McCarthy one way and coolly rolled the ball over the line to win the shootout, 6-5.