On an evening in Philadelphia last September, Sporting Kansas City midfielder Jordi Quintilla scooted a penalty kick across the goal line, clinching the club its second U.S. Open Cup championship in four seasons. And for a brief moment, the frustrations of an uneven MLS campaign dissipated.
A match in Minnesota on Wednesday night offered some symmetry.
Sidestepping recent struggles in MLS play, Sporting KC launched its Open Cup championship defense with a 2-1 victory in overtime against Minnesota United FC of the North American Soccer League.
Diego Rubio provided the game-winning goal in the second segment of overtime.
Rubio initially scored off a rebound from a Jimmy Medranda shot, but the play was negated by an offside flag. Two minutes later, he collected a nifty pass from midfielder Benny Feilhaber and buried the chance toward the far post. This time, the flag stayed down.
“It’s always a battle. It wasn’t an easy game by any means,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said in a phone interview. “Especially playing at home, (Minnesota) really brought everything they had.”
Sporting KC entered the match Wednesday with only one victory over the past 11 matches on its MLS itinerary.
Forgotten. For a night.
On Wednesday, Rubio was the lone player to find a productive final touch in the run of play, supplying his second goal in his first season with Sporting KC. He entered the match to start the second overtime period.
“It was a great finish. He’s got that in him,” Vermes said. “It was one of the reasons why we brought him here.”
The two teams used penalty kicks to trade goals in regulation. Feilhaber was first to find the back of the net in the 65th minute, the result of a Minnesota handball in its own box. Minnesota equalized from the same spot when Christian Ramirez converted a penalty kick in the 81st minute — the consequence of an ill-advised slide tackle from Medranda that drew a foul.
The two penalty kicks highlighted an otherwise choppy second half that featured nine yellow cards but no ejections.
Sporting KC outshot Minnesota 11-9 for the game, but it was Minnesota that came closest to discovering a game-winner in the waning moments.
“I was very concerned about this game from the point of view that Minnesota is a good team. They bring a lot to the table,” Vermes said. “I thought this was going to be a hard match to start this competition out.”
Playing for the first time in nearly two weeks, Sporting KC was without designated players Matt Besler and Graham Zusi, who are with the United States men’s national team. The Americans are set to face Ecuador in the Copa America Centenario quarterfinals on Thursday.
Sporting KC returns to MLS action with a home match Sunday against FC Dallas, and the two clubs could potentially battle some tired legs in extreme heat. Both teams played overtime matches Wednesday.
SPORTING KANSAS CITY 2
MINNESOTA UNITED 1, OT
KANSAS CITY: Kann, Abdul-Salaam (Myers, 99th), Opara, Olum, Medranda, Feilhaber, Mustivar, Espinoza, Peterson (Davis, 90th), Dwyer (Rubio, 105th), Hallisey.
MINNESOTA: Ndjock, Venegas, Lowe, Kallman, Davis, Vicentini (Banks, 78th), Brovsky, Ibson (Speas, 61st), Cruz, Ramirez, Pinho.
Kansas City: 1, Feilhaber, 65th minute (penalty kick). 3, Diego Rubio (Feilhaber), 109th minute. Minnesota: 2, Ramirez, 81st (penalty kick).
Shots on goal
Kansas City: Opara, 51st; Espinoza, 55th; Abdul-Salaam, 69th; Olum, 75th.
Minnesota: Ndjock, 55th; Lowe, 56th; Vicentini, 57th; Cruz, 68th; Speas, 72nd; Kallman, 117th; Davis, 112nd.
Kansas City: None.