On a rainy, soggy night in Chester, Pa., the youngest player on the soccer field stepped to the penalty dot. Fittingly, Jordi Quintilla wore No. 96 across his back — representing the year the Sporting Kansas City franchise opened for business.
The ensuing 20 seasons have been far from perfect, and they even necessitated a rebranding model to prevent a departure from Kansas City. But No. 96 provided another thrilling moment in a recent lineage of them.
One more championship-winning penalty kick.
Sporting Kansas City defeated the Philadelphia Union 1-1 (7-6 in penalty kicks) on Wednesday to win its third U.S. Open Cup championship. Sporting KC became the fourth franchise in MLS history to win the tournament for a third time.
“It’s hard to put into words what the emotions feel like,” Sporting KC captain Matt Besler said. “There’s something about penalty kicks in championship games with this group of guys. I can’t say enough about our fight and our heart. I’m just so proud of our teammates.
“We’re bringing the Cup back to Kansas City.”
Quintilla provided the game-winning penalty kick —even though it wasn’t even his turn.
After Sporting KC keeper Tim Melia denied Andrew Wenger in the eighth-round of kicks, 21-year-old Quintilla insisted he would be the one to take the clincher.
“It was Jake (Peterson)’s turn, but (Wenger) missed, and I said, “Jake, I go,’” Quintilla said.
Of course it required penalty kicks. How else?
Sporting KC, which also won the Open Cup in 2012 and the MLS Cup in 2013, has won three major trophies over the past four seasons. All necessitated penalty kicks.
The most recent two needed extra rounds, too.
After they exchanged six goals each over the first seven rounds Wednesday, Quintilla slid the game-winner across the goal line in the eight round — after Melia used his leg to stone the attempt from Wenger.
Quintilla ripped off his white jersey in celebration, and Sporting KC players celebrated in front of nearly 1,000 fans who made the trip to PPL Park in Chester, Penn.
“It says a lot about the club. I’ve said from the beginning (that) I think every team wants to win this competition. It just depends on how you go about it, what teams you put on the field and how well you do,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. “And our guys, we bought into this. We wanted to win. They put everything they had into it, and they got it done.”
The visiting club celebrated with an awards presentation after the match — the first under captain Matt Besler, who used two hands to lift the silver trophy into the air before smacking his lips against it.
“We knew this wasn’t going to be an easy game, and it certainly wasn’t. Philadelphia — credit to them — they gave us everything that we could handle. We knew that we were going to have to weather their initial storm and I thought that for the most part we did that in the first 30 minutes,” Besler said. “And honestly, I think the rest of the game, I thought we were on the front foot and controlled a lot of the possession. We deserve to be champions with the effort that we put forth.”
Especially after halftime, anyway.
Philadelphia controlled the pace of play in the opening half, and it resulted in a 1-0 lead when Sebastien LeToux beat Melia and Sporting KC defender Seth Sinovic to a loose ball in the box and sent it into the back of the net.
Krisztian Nemeth equalized in the 65th minute, connecting on the other end of pass from Graham Zusi and finding the side netting.
“Krisztian is a quality player. In these types of games, the difference between scoring a goal and winning and losing is very marginal,” Besler said. “Big players step up in those opportunities. Krisztian is a big player and a quality player.”
After the remainder of the second half and two 15-minute overtime periods failed to solve the tie, the two teams remained tied through the initial five rounds of penalty kicks.
Sporting KC players Paulo Nagamura, Zusi and Kevin Ellis converted make-it-or-lose-it kicks in the extra rounds, preserving enough time for Melia to make his second save of the penalty kicks. Melia, who also made seven stops in regulation, correctly dove to his right to stop Wenger.
Quintilla smoothly put his shot past Union keeper John McCarthy, whom Union coach Jim Curtin inserted into the game specifically for the shootout.
“I’m excited for him because he made a commitment to try and come here,” Vermes said. “We’ve tried to get him for a while and it all worked out. It’s exciting for him and good for the team.”
Wednesday’s U. S. Open Cup championship summary
Sporting Kansas City 1
Note: Sporting Kansas City wins 7-6 on penalty kicks.
KANSAS CITY: Tim Melia, Seth Sinovic (Saad Abdul-Salaam, 78th), Marcel De Jong (Jacob Peterson, 54th), Chance Myers (Jacob Peterson, 112th), Matt Besler, Kevin Ellis, Soni Mustivar (Jordi Quintilla, 66th), Benny Feilhaber, Paulo Nagamura, Graham Zusi, Dom Dwyer.
Philadelphia: Andre Blake (John McCarthy, 120th), C.J. Sapong (Andrew Wenger, 116th), Raymon Gaddis, Maurice Edu, Richie Marquez, Fabinho, Vincent Nogueira, Michael Lahoud, Sebastien Le Toux, Cristian Maidana (Conor Casey, 77th), Tranquillo Barnetta.
Kansas City: 2, Nemeth, 65th minute.
Philadelphia: 1, Le Toux (Nogueira), 23rd minute.
Shots on goal
Kansas City: Ellis, 29th; Sinovic, 34th; Quintilla, 71st; Besler, 86th; Nagamura, 94th; Zusi, 104th; Myers, 106th.
Philadelphia: Lahoud, 21st; Barnetta, 58th; Sapong, 90+1st.
Kansas City: None.
Referee: Ted Unkel.
Assistant referee: Iam Anderson.
Assistant referee: James Conlee.
4th official: Chris Penso.
Announced attendance: 1x,xxx.