Thursday, July 12, 2012

Bound for the Finals

Sporting KC punched their ticket to their first cup final since the 2004 season when they made both the US Open Cup and MLS Cup final.  KC topped the Philadelphia Union 2-0, on the road to advance to the final in the 99th running of the competition.  Goals by Jacob Peterson and Graham Zusi helped Sporting KC grab the win over the Union in a bit of "revenge" from the last time the two clubs met and Philadelphia won 4-0.

The first half saw little action in terms of goal chances as both teams looked to avoid an early mistake that would put them in the hole.  KC started the game with the better play, controlling the game, but could produce little when it came to the final third as they struggled to even put a shot on goal on Zac MacMath.  Slowly the Union started to get into the game and control more of the possession.  They too though struggled to really create chances, but their troubles were with the finishing side of things.  Freddy Adu did a good job on the end line creating space, beating both Paulo Nagamura and Chance Myers before laying a ball back to Lionard Pajoy, but Pajoy couldn't get a shot off before the ball was knocked away.  Jack McInerney, who scored 2 goals in the teams' last meeting put an effort wide of Jimmy Nielsen's net as well.  Aurelien Collin did a good job late in the half on Pajoy as he was played in on goal, but took an opportunity to cut back as Collin came sliding in.  The slide was enough to knock Pajoy off his cut and the ball was cleared.  KC's best chance came on a counter after Philadelphia had started to get more of the play.  A ball was crossed into the box for Peterson who knocked the ball back across goal.  Teal Bunbury was there to knock the ball home but the ball was cleared before it got to Bunbury and the teams went into the half 0-0, and most people watching started to settle themselves in for a game that seemed destined to go to penalty kicks by the end of the night.

The game started to get very chippy in the second half with both teams committing numerous fouls, many of Philadelphia's being on Roger Espinoza as he continues to be one of the more frustrating players in the league to play against.  KC continued to win free kicks in Philadelphia's half of the field, as they had at times in the first half as well.  In the 65th minute, after another foul by the Union on Zusi, KC finally got themselves on the board.  From a free kick about 35 yards out right on the sideline, Zusi played the free kick into the box.  Peterson was the first player to the ball and got his header on goal and past MacMath.  On first viewing of the goal it took a few seconds for anyone watching on TV to realize it'd gone into the back of the net.  My first reaction based on the way that MacMath was acting on getting to the shot was that it had gone into the side netting outside the goal.  But after a second realized it had gone in and KC was up 1-0.  A poor play by MacMath that he'll want to have back as he got a finger to it, but not enough to keep it out. 

After the goal, Sporting almost made it 2-0 very shortly after as Kei Kamara and CJ Sapong played a great 1-2 into the box, Sapong beat MacMath, but couldn't beat the post as his ball hit off the post and rolled out of play.  The Union started to get more of the game, but still struggled to really create chances even with their possession down the stretch.  KC looked the more likely to score a second, particularly on the counter.  Zusi just missed after a nicely worked ball between Kamara and Peterson found Zusi in the box, but his effort was just wide of the net.  Philadelphia's super sub, Antoine Hoppenot almost brought the Union level later in the half as he was played in on goal by Adu.  Nielsen was quick off his line though and deflected the shot with his feet.  The rebound was headed in, but Seth Sinovic did well to clear the ball off the line and out for a corner.  The Union continued to push numbers forward, Adu skied an effort well over the goal, and it kept looking likely that the Union wouldn't find a goal.  Philadelphia had a penalty shout as Besler seemed to bring down a player in the box, but the referee judged that Besler had played the ball and that it wasn't a foul and play continued.  The Union looked down to their last chance on a long throw by Sheanon Williams, who ended up taking the throw short and receiving the ball back.  His cross was knocked away, but the Union tried to play the ball out wide again, but was right to Sinovic who just looked to clear the lines for KC, booting the ball down field.  MacMath who was up near the midfield line, beat Kamara to the ball, heading it back into Sporting's end.  Zusi had made his way up the field though and from just inside his own half struck the ball on the bounce over MacMath's head and the ball bounced into the empty net icing the game for KC and guaranteeing them their hosting of the US Open Cup final against 3 time defending champion, the Seattle Sounders, who beat Chivas USA 4-1 last night in Seattle.

Wizards Man of the Match - Matt Besler - This was a hard one to choose, Besler, Sinovic, and Zusi all had very good games, but Besler helped to completely lock down the middle of the defense.  A huge effort and showed how much he was missed in the team's 4-0 loss to the Union earlier this year.

Honorable Mention - Seth Sinovic, Graham Zusi

Player Ratings - Nielsen 7, Myers 7, Collin 8, Besler 9, Sinovic 9, Nagamura 6, Espinoza 8, Zusi 8, Kamara 6, Bunbury 5, Peterson 8.  Subs Sapong 6.


hartley said...

Ah, with the way we haven't been scoring lately, I think Jacob Peterson should be Man of the Match. He may not be pretty out there, but he continues to be persistant both on defense and offense. Man, he is back to being the pest he was when he played for Colorado. And I am wondering if there is something magical about playing in light blue kits for Mr. Peterson.

Nathan W Martin said...


Since the Chicago Fire game, I've really been noticing the negatives of having the captain in goal (he rarely can talk to the ref). Matt Besler would be my choice.

Mike, I know you are probably working on this. What is SKC's roster flexibility?

And are any players vulnerable to being cut like Sassano or do the remaining players' contracts make that unlikely?