Survive and advance, that's the cliche that a lot of people use went it comes to advancing in a knockout tournament, you don't always need to play well, you just need to survive and advance. That's exactly what Sporting KC did last night at Sporting Park against the Houston Dynamo. They weren't playing their best soccer of the year by far, but an early red card by the Dynamo and some tired legs late allowed KC to advance to the US Open Cup semifinals with a 3-1 win over the Houston club.
The first half of the game was an extremely ugly game to watch from both teams, neither side was creating much in the way of chances, and the build up play was not pretty either. The Dynamo controlled the early part of the game though, winning a number of set pieces and corners in KC's end of the field. It seemed that KC hadn't learned their lesson from their 4-4 draw in Houston earlier this year and not giving Houston a bunch of set pieces with Brad Davis serving in set pieces. The game changed in the 30th minute though as Luis Garrido tried to win the ball off Benny Feilhaber, the ball got played back to Amadou Dia, Garrido followed the ball and as Dia released it, Garrido came in with a sliding challenge with his studs up, going through Dia completely missing the ball. Referee Ted Unkel went to his back pocket and handed Garrido a straight red card for his actions putting the Dynamo down to 10 men. From there, KC started to control and dominate play, but they still struggled to create chances as the first half ended 0-0 with neither team recording a shot on goal.
The second half saw KC continue to dominate play and keep Houston in their end of the field. The Dynamo relied on counters to get any chances at KC's net. In the 58th they won themselves a corner after a poor back pass by Matt Besler. Off the ensuing set piece, the Dynamo made KC pay for one set piece too many. Davis played corner right into the middle of the box for Ricardo Clark, the midfielder put his header on frame but was blocked on the line by Roger Espinoza, the rebound fell to Will Bruin who knocked his effort between Espinoza and Tim Melia to make it 1-0 to the Dynamo. KC went back to the attack and minutes later had won a penalty kick and a chance to equalize after Davis brought down Chance Myers in the box. Dom Dwyer stepped up to take the spot kick, but his kick was poor, not in either corner and at a comfortable level for Joe Willis to make an easy save keeping Houston on top. It wouldn't be a Houston vs KC game without a small dust up though and in the 65th minute, Espinoza was taken down by an elbow by Clark. In the ensuing scuffle between the two teams, Davis and Espinoza got into it a bit and it appears that Espinoza threw a punch at Davis which none of the referees saw. Both Davis and Espinoza received a yellow card on the play. The Dynamo were starting to tire though, many of the players had gone 90 minutes on the weekend against Salt Lake and the heavy legs began to show. In the 71st, Clark was late to react to a through ball by Besler as he slid late, missing the ball as it slipped through to Feilhaber. The missed tackle gave Feilhaber time at the top of the box to pick his corner and he buried his shot low past Willis to tie the game at 1-1. From there Sporting continued to control and always looked the more likely team to find a second as they kept Houston pinned deep. Finally in the 86th, KC was able to capitalize on their possession again and take the lead. Dia played a nice ball into the middle for Krisztian Nemeth who flicked the ball with the outside of his foot into the path of Dwyer as he ran into the box. Dwyer took a touch and made no mistake slotting the ball into the near corner past Willis and giving KC a 2-1 lead. Two minutes later with the Dynamo looking tired and defeated, KC made it 3-1 as Dwyer received a pass from Espinoza and picked out Nemeth in the box, Nemeth settled the ball and fired a shot towards the far corner. On the way through though the ball took a big deflection off of Houston defender, AJ Cochran and deflected into the middle of the goal. With Willis having already commited on the initial shot he had no chance to adjust as the ball went into the net sealing the game for KC. KC now move on to the semifinals where they'll host Real Salt Lake for a chance at the finals.
Wizards Man of the Match - Benny Feilhaber - Seemed to put the team on his back last night, especially after they had gone down a goal, he was trying to will a goal to happen with his play. He was rewarded with the tying goal, but overall carried the team last night when it looked sluggish.
Player Ratings - Melia 5, Myers 6, Ellis 4, Besler 4, Dia 5, Mustivar 5, Espinoza 5, Feilhaber 7, Hallisey 4, Dwyer 6, Nemeth 6. Subs Peterson 6, Nagamura NR, Abdul-Salaam NR.