For the first time since winning the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in 2004, Sporting Kansas City returned to the tournament’s semifinals on Tuesday with a lopsided 3-0 victory against the Dayton Dutch Lions.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
Sporting KC jumped in front 5 minutes into play and buried the Lions — who play in the United Soccer League Pro Division — with two more goals less than 4 minutes apart early in the second half.
The blowout got rolling off a restart by Graham Zusi in the 5th minute that wound up at the feet of left back Seth Sinovic, whose right-footed rocket from the top of the penalty box took a deflection off C.J. Sapong halfway to the goal and caught Dayton goalie Matthew Williams leaning the wrong way for a 1-0 lead.
“We wanted to come out hot and try to get an early goal, because the longer you let a team like this in it, the more confidence they are going to get,” Sinovic said. “We were happy and fortunate to get the goal early.”
Sinovic later set up the second goal with an overlapping run along the left flank in the 56th minute.
He slipped a pass into the box for Jacob Peterson, who tapped it to Zusi with a lightning-quick touch.
After a gentle roll forward and a glance at Dayton’s goal, Zusi cranked a shot into the upper right corner that a flat-footed Williams could only admire.
“I looked to see where I was and then tried to go for that far post and hoped it sneaked in,” Zusi said. “I caught it well, but it was a nice little combination play between Seth, Jake and myself.”
Zusi then gave way for Roger Espinoza in the 58th minute, allowing Soony Saad to take a 59th-minute corner kick that found Sapong’s head dead center in front of the Lions’ goal for a crisply struck insurance goal.
Sporting KC — which had been 0-3-1 and had failed to advance in four quarterfinal appearances in the U.S. Open Cup since 2004 — had chances to pump up its lead before halftime.
Lawrence Olum, who was starting for Aurelien Collin on the back line but who switched sides in central defense after starting the last three games in place of an injured Matt Besler, couldn’t get enough steam on a header in the 18th minute to beat Williams.
During the 41st minute, Zusi, who delivered a crisp cross that Sapong headed wide of the far post moments earlier, tried to make Williams pay for straying too far off his line with a midfield chip toward goal, but the ball sailed high and wide right.
Sporting KC, which outshot Dayton 15-2 in the first half, nearly widened its lead just before halftime, but Peterson drilled the right post on a nifty give-and-go with Sapong in the 45th minute that left it 1-0 at the break.
The Lions’ best chance for an equalizer came in the 27th minute when forward Thomas Garner dribbled down the right flank and sent a cross into the box that Nixon Dias redirected on frame, but Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen pushed the shot high.
The only other time Dayton threatened came on a run up the left side by Gibson Bardsley that right back Michael Harrington cleaned up rather easily.
Dayton came out considerably more aggressive in the second half, pushing for an equalizer.
But Nielsen watched a chip sail harmlessly over the crossbar in the 46th minute and then stonewalled Bardsley in the 52nd minute.
Sinovic nearly netted a goal of his own with a sliding try in the 66th minute, but the ball missed by inches to groans from the announced crowd of 15,167.
Williams later rebuffed second-half substitute Teal Bunbury with a sliding save in the 84th minute.
Sporting KC now will face the Union, which claimed an embarrassing 4-0 win Saturday, in Sporting KC’s return trip for the Open Cup semifinals on July 11 in Philadelphia.
“I don’t think we need much motivation going back up there,” Besler said. “Like I said before, we got embarrassed on Saturday and the stakes are going to be high next time we go up there. I think we’re going to be ready.”
• The Union won its match Tuesday, beating the Harrisburg City Islanders 5-2 in a quarterfinal match in Chester, Pa.
Lionard Pajoy scored twice for Philadelphia, and Jack McInerney, Freddy Adu and Gabriel Gomez each added goals for the Union.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at Twitter.com/todpalmer.