In front of a record US Open Cup crowd for the club, Sporting KC won their first match up against a team from across the state of Missouri, defeating St. Louis FC of the USL 1-0 thanks to a 70th minute goal by Graham Zusi. The match up sees KC advance to the fifth round of the Open Cup in late June/early July. They'll find their opponent out tomorrow when US Soccer holds the draw for the fifth round and the quarterfinals.
KC came out with as strong a lineup as the possibly good for the game, putting out the full first team, including the return to the lineup for Chance Myers in his first game back in over a year. KC came out and controlled the game as St. Louis came out in the formation that has been quite successful for lower division teams in KC. St. Louis packed the middle of the field, allowed KC a lot of possession around the box and in St. Louis' half of the field, but as KC would get closer to the box the pressure would pick up and more defenders would converge on the ball. It's a style that the likes of Richmond in 2011, Orlando City in 2013, and Houston a number of times have played to perfection against KC to walk out of Sporting Park with a win. Going the other direction, St. Louis looked to capitalize on a KC mistake or by KC pushing forward and strike on the counter. They almost were successful in that in the first half as poor touch near midfield allowed Jermie Lynch to race down field towards a loose ball. Goalkeeper Tim Melia was quick off his line though and was able to tackle the ball away well outside his box. KC had the better of the chances with all the possession. In the 17th minute, Dom Dwyer was denied by the cross bar as he met a Zusi free kick and beat St. Louis goalkeeper Mark Pais, but his header smacked into the bar and back into play. That ended up being the only shot KC would have for the vast majority of the half as St. Louis' defense shut down KC's attempts as they looked to play through them and didn't take many shots from outside the box. In first half stoppage time KC had another good chance and Roger Espinoza played a nice ball to the back post towards Amadou Dia. As Pais came out, Dia chipped the ball back into the box for Zusi who put his header on net, but it was saved on the line by St. Louis forward Mike Ambersley as the two teams went into the half scoreless.
For the second half KC came out again with possession, but this time seemed more willing to shoot from further outside the box. KC started to test Pais a little more as in the 56th he had to make a good save after a shot from distance was deflected and Pais pushed it away. KC had a penalty shout early in the second half as well, after getting played the ball in the box, Zusi cut around a couple St. Louis defenders towards the middle of the box but was brought down. No foul was given though and play continued. At the other end, St. Louis had an excellent opportunity to take the lead as Lynch found himself unmarked in the box as a cross came in, but he did poor with the header sending it up into the stands from about seven yards out. The miss came back to haunt St. Louis minutes later when Benny Feilhaber played a nice short cross into the box that Zusi ran onto and headed past Pais and into the net to make it 1-0 KC. From there the game opened up a little bit more as St. Louis had to push forward more, but they still kept more of a defensive shell that allowed KC to continue to hold possession, but they were unable to extend the lead. St. Louis had one really good chance late as they countered, but Ambersley fired a shot from a tight angle wide of the near post as KC was able to hold on for the 1-0 win.
Wizards Man of the Match - Soni Mustivar - Was all over the place in the midfield for KC, was breaking up everything that came into his area. Even when he made a mistake late in the game with a poor pass, he was the one that made the recovery himself to atone for the mistake. He continues to be probably the biggest reason for KC's turnaround.
Player Ratings - Melia 6, Myers 6, Ellis 7, Besler 7, Dia 6, Mustivar 8, Espinoza 6, Feilhaber 6, Hallisey 5, Dwyer 5, Zusi 7. Subs Abdul-Salaam 6, Peterson 6, de Jong NR.