Knock out competitions aren't about looking good or necessarily being the better team, knock out competitions are all about surviving and advancing to the next round. Tonight in Minnesota, Sporting KC did just that, surviving a very physical game with Minnesota United, at game that saw 42 fouls, a shoving match, two penalty kicks awarded, and 11 yellow cards (surprisingly no reds), to advance 2-1 after extra time thanks to a goal by Diego Rubio.
After a slow start for Sporting Kansas City, where Minnesota had much of the early play, Kansas City stepped up and started to take over the game in the first half. They couldn't create much in the way of chances, but held the ball for over 60% of the first half. There was really only one really dangerous chance for either side in the first half and that fell to Dom Dwyer in the 20th minute. Jimmy Medranda played an excellent curled ball into the box that sailed over the defenders to Dwyer. Dwyer had an excellent first touch to bring the ball down and set up his shot, but couldn't beat United goalkeeper Sammy Ndjock who had come quickly off his line. United's best chance came later in the half as a cross from KC's right went past the goal to the back post for Danny Cruz who was surprised that the ball made it past both Ike Opara and Medranda and landed at his feet, and the winger couldn't get much of a touch on it to bring the ball down.
The second half once again saw Minnesota come out with some early aggression and had a good opportunity on a free kick outside the box but defender Damion Lowe was offside on a ball played over the top, Sporting goalkeeper Alec Kann still made the save though as Lowe tried to score. KC started to build possession again, and unlike the first half started to get Benny Feilhaber more involved in the attacking half of the field, a switch from the first half when he mainly played right in front of the center backs. Feilhaber was able to create some more space with his passing, but it was another player's dribbling that finally set up the first goal of the game. In the 62nd minute Medranda received the ball about 40 yards from goal and to the left, he proceeded to beat four Minnesota defenders getting just wide of the box before playing a cross into Dwyer. Dwyer brought the ball down, turned and fired a shot that hit a Minnesota defender's hand leading to a penalty kick for Kansas City. Feilhaber stepped up and while Ndjock guessed right, Feilhaber slotted the ball into the corner to put KC in front and score the team's first goal in over 280 minutes of game play. After the goal though Minnesota really started to take the game over, pinning KC back in their own end, not allowing them to get forward. The pressure caused the KC defense to make some mistakes but Minnesota was unable to capitalize. Finally in the 79th minute they were able to as Cruz received the ball out wide and dribbled at Medranda taking him on. The Colombian went for a tackle, missing the ball and taking Cruz out leading to another penalty. Upon replay it looked like the contact of the foul started outside the box, but the penalty was awarded and Christian Ramirez was able to slot the ball into the corner as Kann guessed right to tie the game at 1-1. Minnesota continued to pressure late but could not find a winner sending the game to extra time.
Extra time saw both teams control the game for periods of time but fail to find the final ball. The first period's best chance fell to Minnesota after some very good one touch passing down the wing and into the middle JC Banks chested the ball into the path of Ramirez and only a great sliding tackle by Ike Opara kept the United forward from scoring. KC was able to test Ndjock a little, but not with real clear chances. Heading into the second period of extra time, Peter Vermes inserted his young designated player, Diego Rubio, who has struggled for playing time while on loan. Rubio's insertion paid almost immediate dividends as a Medranda shot was spilled by Ndjock right in front of goal where Rubio pounced, but was offside and had the goal called back. Minutes later though Rubio would find the net as Feilhaber led a quick break for KC getting space and slotted a ball through to Rubio into the box. The Chilean had time to look up and fire a shot past Ndjock and into the net. Over the final 10 minutes Minnesota threw everything at Kansas City but couldn't find a way through. Their best chance came in the 120th minute on a long ball over the top that Kann came for weakly looking to get a foul. He missed the ball and the header was flicked on towards goal but rolled just wide of the post keeping KC in front. Shortly after the final whistle blew and KC advanced to the next round where they'll find their opponent for June 29th out tomorrow.
Wizards Man of the Match - Ike Opara & Lawrence Olum - Did an excellent job of containing Christian Ramirez all night. United's leading scorer was kept in check by Kansas City's center back pairing for a good portion of the game.
Player Ratings - Kann 5, Medranda 6, Opara 8, Olum 8, Abdul-Salaam 7, Mustivar 6, Espinoza 6, Feilhaber 6, Hallisey 4, Dwyer 5, Peterson 4. Subs Davis 5, Myers 5, Rubio 6.