Loss to Minnesota ends Sporting’s U.S. Open Cup effort

Sporting Kansas City exited the 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday night, falling 4-1 to Minnesota United FC at Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Gerso Fernandes drew Sporting level midway through the first half after Angelo Rodriguez had given Minnesota an early lead, but the Loons received a brace from Darwin Quintero and an Ethan Finlay strike in the second period to advance to the Round of 16.

The result condemns Sporting to their first Round of 32 defeat in the Open Cup since 2000, breaking a streak of nine straight victories at this stage of the heralded knockout-style tournament.

Manager Peter Vermes’ side will now regroup before resuming their MLS regular season campaign on June 23, visiting Columbus Crew SC in a 4:30 p.m. kickoff at MAPFRE Stadium. The match will air live on FOX Sports Kansas City Plus and FOX Sports Midwest Plus.

A light shuffling of the Sporting Kansas City lineup saw Vermes make two changes from Friday’s 2-2 draw at Toronto FC.

Goalkeeper Adrian Zendejas replaced Tim Melia and left back Seth Sinovic made way for Jimmy Medranda, who hit two notable landmarks on Wednesday. Medranda had recovered from a long-term knee injury for his first start since May 20, 2018, which coincidentally came in an MLS match at Minnesota-and in doing so, logged his 100th career appearance for Sporting in all competitions.

The Loons took less than two minutes to strike through Rodriguez following a clever delivery from captain Quintero. Sporting goalkeeper Adrian Zendejas prevented Minnesota from doubling their advantage four minutes later, diving at full extension to push aside Finlay’s shot on the breakaway.

Sporting gradually gained a foothold as the first half progressed, however, and tested Minnesota gloveman Vito Mannone in the ninth minute when Gerso ran onto Medranda’s feed and pulled the trigger from a tight angle.

Medranda and Gerso combined again for Sporting’s equalizer in the 27th minute, finishing an incisive attack that unlocked Minnesota’s defense. Felipe Gutierrez’s crafty diagonal ball was pinged back across the face of goal by Medranda, allowing Gerso to fire a bouncing shot past Mannone for his fifth tally of the season in all competitions.

Head coach Adrian Heath’s men nearly produced an instant reply on the half-hour mark, but the hosts were unable to capitalize on an opening through the middle. Collin Martin tried rounding Zendejas inside the penalty area but got the ball stuck under his own feet, then picked out a trailing Rodriguez whose shot deflected wide.

The game got away from Sporting in the second half, as Minnesota surged ahead once more within 45 seconds of the restart. Hassani Dotson set up Finlay for the match-winning goal, putting the visitors back behind the proverbial eight ball.

Mannone thwarted Gutierrez in the 48th minute, sprawling low at the near post, and the Loons extended their cushion seven minutes later when Quintero tucked a shot low into the corner off a Rodriguez square pass.

Frustration mounted for Sporting near the 60-minute mark, as Salloi’s audacious chip shot with his back to goal was touched onto the crossbar by the leaping Mannone before Gerso’s sledgehammer was palmed aside.

Minnesota put the game on ice in the 67th minute as Quintero raced in behind the defense and recorded his seventh goal of the year across all competitions. Salloi almost cut into the three-goal deficit with 10 minutes remaining, but his close-range shot caromed off defender Michael Boxall and inches wide of the frame.

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Sporting KC travels to Minnesota on Wednesday to begin Open Cup chase

Sporting Kansas City will begin the club’s journey in the 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday, traveling to face regional rival Minnesota United FC at the new Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The Fourth Round contest will kick off at 7 p.m., with the winner advancing to the tournament’s Round of 16 on June 18-19.

Wednesday’s win-or-go-home showdown can be seen on ESPN+, a live and on-demand streaming service that launched in 2018.

Set to make their inaugural visit to Allianz Field, Sporting secured a 2-2 draw at Toronto FC last Friday.

Felipe Gutierrez scored twice from the penalty spot in the club’s final MLS match before the Concacaf Gold Cup break, but Toronto salvaged a last-gasp equalizer in the 95th minute through Jordan Hamilton to deny Sporting their first road win of the season.

Led by head coach Adrian Heath, Minnesota dropped their third straight game on Saturday in a 1-0 decision at the Colorado Rapids.

The Loons had enjoyed a strong start to the 2019 campaign – Minnesota has five shutouts this season after recording just two in all of 2018 – but recent struggles have stemmed the momentum. Game-changing forward Darwin Quintero leads the Loons with five goals, while MLS debutant Romain Metanire has a team-best six assists.

A combination of injuries and international duty will require both teams to flex their depth on Wednesday.

Sporting remains without European quartet Botond Barath, Nico Hasler Krisztian Nemeth and Johnny Russell – all of whom ventured abroad to represent their countries in UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying – while captain Matt Besler is questionable with a hamstring strain.

On the opposite sideline, former Sporting defender Ike Opara will miss a reunion opportunity after being ruled out with an undisclosed injury. Influential midfielder Osvaldo Alonso (quad) and forward Abu Danladi (hamstring) will also miss the game.

Sporting and Minnesota will meet in the U.S. Open Cup Fourth Round for the fourth time in six years.

Manager Peter Vermes’ side has prevailed on each of the previous three occasions, cruising on home turf in 2014 and 2017 and claiming an extra-time road win in 2016 – the final year that Minnesota competed in the North American Soccer League before moving to MLS. The matchup is one of five all-MLS fixtures in the 2019 U.S. Open Cup Fourth Round.

The trip to Minnesota marks another destination for Sporting during a travel-heavy month of June, which sees the club play four MLS away matches before returning to Children’s Mercy Park on July 3 to play LAFC. Sporting currently occupy 10th place in the Western Conference with a 3-5-7 record (16 points), while Minnesota are seventh in the West at 6-7-3 (21 points).

Sporting owns four Open Cup titles in team history, tied with the Chicago Fire and Seattle Sounders FC for the most among MLS clubs. Vermes has guided the side to three Open Cup championships over the last seven seasons, hoisting the trophy in 2012, 2015 and 2017 to go with the club’s first title in 2004.

The 2019 U.S. Open Cup winner will claim $300,000 in prize money, a berth in the 2020 Concacaf Champions League and have its name engraved on the Dewar Challenge Trophy, one of the oldest trophies in American team sports and now on display at the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Frisco, Texas.

The runner-up will earn $100,000, while the club that advances the furthest from each lower division below Major League Soccer will secure $25,000. The 2019 edition will unfold in a single-elimination format through the final in late August.

The U.S. Open Cup has crowned a champion annually since 1914, making it the oldest ongoing soccer competition in the U.S. and the world’s third-longest continuously running soccer tournament. In 1999, the competition was renamed to honor American soccer pioneer Lamar Hunt, who owned Kansas City’s MLS club from its founding until 2006.

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Sporting KC settles for 2-2 draw in Toronto

Sporting Kansas City (3-5-7, 10th place) continued the club’s strong form against Toronto FC (5-6-4, 7th place) on Friday with a 2-2 draw at BMO Field.

Felipe Gutierrez twice converted penalties, once in the 25th minute and again in the 73rd minute, as Sporting stretched the team’s unbeaten run to 10 games (6-0-4) against Toronto and secured an eighth straight road result (4-0-4) at BMO Field.

Amid a month-long road trip and missing nine players due to international duty and injuries, the shorthanded Sporting squad was bolstered by the return of Gerso Fernandes after a six-week absence with a broken wrist.

Gerso won the first of Sporting’s two penalties in the 22nd minute, drawing a foul from Drew Moor at the edge of the penalty area. Initially whistled as a free kick outside the box, match official Fotis Bazakos reviewed the incident and awarded a penalty to the visitors.

Gutierrez, who had converted both of his previous penalty attempts this season, confidently stepped to the spot and converted the attempt to give Sporting KC a 1-0 lead away from home for the second straight week.

The Chilean international nearly set up a second Sporting goal just five minutes later with a perfectly weighted ball behind the Toronto FC backline. Yohan Croizet, last week’s goal scorer in a 1-1 draw at Houston, raced onto the pass but couldn’t beat Toronto FC goalkeeper Quentin Westberg in the one-on-one situation.

On the opposite end, Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Tim Melia – on a night he became the team’s all-time leader in games played by a goalkeeper – had twice produced superb saves to deny Toronto FC an opening goal on set pieces taken by Alejandro Pozuelo.

In the game’s 12th minute, Melia reacted quickly to push away Eriq Zavaleta’s header from a corner kick and later in the 33rd minute, Melia dove low to his right to keep out Liam Fraser’s header off a free kick.

Nevertheless, Toronto would break through on the cusp of halftime with a goal in the 43rd minute. Justin Morrow’s left-footed cross from the edge of the penalty area found the well-timed run of Nick DeLeon, who made no mistake with a first-time finish from inside the six-yard box to pull Toronto level at 1-1.

The stalemate would last until the 73rd minute when Gutierrez reclaimed the lead for Sporting with a second penalty decided by video review.

Bazakos, who initially did not call a foul for DeLeon’s tackle on Gutierrez inside the box in the 69th minute, ultimately overturned the decision and pointed to the spot upon the advice of Video Assistant Referee Jose Carlos Rivero.

Gutierrez again sent Westberg the wrong direction for his sixth goal of the season, becoming the first Sporting KC player to score two penalties in an MLS match since Dom Dwyer did so, also against Toronto FC, in August 2014.

Minutes away from securing the team’s first road win of the MLS campaign, Sporting succumbed to a 95th-minute equalizer as second-half substitutes Jordan Hamilton and Ryan Telfer linked up for Toronto FC’s only shot on goal of the second half.

Telfer, recalled from his loan spell with Canadian Premier League side York9 FC on Thursday, entered the match in the 87th minute for his first appearance of the season and made the most of the opportunity, setting up Hamilton for the game-tying goal on the brink of full time.

Sporting Kansas City will now turn the team’s attention to their opening fixture in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, a fourth round match-up at Minnesota United FC on Wednesday, June 12. The match will kick off at 7 p.m. inside the new Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota, and will be streamed live on ESPN+.

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