Throughout the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup’s third round, MLS clubs finished Tuesday night feeling ill after getting bit by the upset bug. But Sporting Kansas City managed to inoculate itself and escape with a 3-2 win against Orlando City SC at Livestrong Sporting Park.
“It’s David and Goliath,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. “Those teams come in, and it’s their biggest game of the year. They want to prove that they can play against MLS teams, and Orlando is a team that wants to join MLS, so they have a lot to fight for.”
The first 20 minutes, Sporting KC had Orlando City on its heels — controlling possession and threatening to put an early goal on the board — but the Lions, having successfully withstood the opening salvo, turned the tide the next 20 minutes.
Making his professional debut, 19-year-old goalkeeper Jon Kempin stood tall in the net before halftime.
He snuffed out a couple of free kicks from just outside the penalty box, including a low drive by Charlie Campbell in the 24th minute that Kempin swallowed up for his first career save.
Kempin also came off his line on a couple occasions with authority to break up one-on-one opportunities that Orlando City created by confusing the Sporting KC defense, which started Konrad Warzycha at centerback in place of Matt Besler and deployed Aurelien Collin as more of a sweeper than is typical.
Chants of “Little Puma” rained down from the announced crowd of 12,217 late in the first half, when Kempin, who made six saves in the win, laid out to his left and swatted away a bending try by Jamie Watson in the 40th minute.
“Kempin was excellent in the first half to really keep us in the game,” Vermes said. “He did a very good job in his debut.”
During first-half stoppage time, Sporting KC grabbed a one-goal lead on a 30-yard rocket from veteran midfielder Paulo Nagamura.
Orlando City drew even in the 55th minute when midfielder Kevin Molino left Sporting KC central defender Aurelien Collin in the dust and headed home a cross from Erik Ustruck at the near post.
Two minutes later, Vermes sent forward Teal Bunbury to check in for Soony Saad. The substitution was even announced before Vermes changed his mind.
It was a move that paid off handsomely when Saad delivered the victory for Sporting KC with goals in the 65th and 69th minutes.
After a somewhat sluggish first half, Saad opened the second half by banging a shot off the far post in the 46th minute.
He nearly restored Sporting KC’s lead on a direct run in the 64th minute off a through ball from Nagamura to split an Orlando City double team, but Saad was tracked down in the box before getting off a shot.
The two would combine again a minute later when Saad slowed his run, allowing Nagamura to track down a chip from C.J. Sapong on the left edge of the box.
Nagamura slipped the ball back to Saad, who had pinched in a few yards.
From there, Saad directed a shot through traffic to the far post for a 2-1 lead.
Four minutes later, Lions goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo punched a free ball that was headed high off a Graham Zusi corner kick toward midfield, where Saad gathered it in and scored a similar goal from the right side, blasting a low shot through traffic to the far post for the game-winner.
“Coach is always telling me to take something off of it and place it sometimes,” Saad said. “I just put it in the corner, and then the second one came to give us a little bit of a cushion.”