The trophy was raised in front of a heap of photographers and then quickly carried over to a boisterous away section that witnessed history for the third time in four seasons.
After biting their nails through 120 minutes and eight rounds of penalty kicks, Sporting Kansas City and its fans were able to clutch the trophy it so desperately desired, capturing the 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title in dramatic fashion.
This was the vision five years ago when Sporting KC rebranded in November 2010.
Now it’s become a reality.
Sporting KC’s recent run has included two U.S. Open Cup titles (2012, 2015) and an MLS Cup (2013). It’s led to a sellout streak pushing 70-straight in league play and the type of away support to see some 800 fans make the 1,135-mile midweek trek to Pennsylvania.
Here are three thoughts on the title win:
1. It was an ugly, sloppy performance but …
On a night of consistent rainfall, horrid first-half defending and more than a half-dozen yellow cards, Sporting KC proved the old adage true: There’s no such thing as ugly win.
Okay, maybe that’s only half true. Sporting KC was outplayed — outmatched even – for the better part of 50 minutes. The Philadelphia Union, attempting to avenge last year’s failure in the Open Cup finale, took it to the visitors and jumped on top early.
At halftime, the Union had an edge in shots (7-4), shots on target (6-2) and duels won (36-22).
Lahoud isn’t wrong. But similar to what happened over the weekend against Seattle, Sporting KC hung around long enough to see one play get them back into the game.
Krisztian Nemeth made sure that play was a good one, too.
Once in extra time, it was clear the match was heading to penalties, baring a defensive collapse of epic proportions – seeing as how every field player looked exhausted.
There, Sporting KC left it to Tim Melia
2. And Melia came up big
Forget the save on Andrew Wenger in the eighth round of penalties to set up Jordi Quintilla’s winner, Melia was most outstanding, most valuable and most consistent player on the field.
Funny, too, is that Melia’s night started out rocky. On Sebastien Le Toux’s goal, Melia hesitated and couldn’t get to the ball in time. Of course, Seth Sinovic pleading for offside while Le Toux ran into the box didn’t help, but it seemed even Melia was set for an off night.
How wrong that assumption was.
Melia finished with seven saves, including these two, which stopped the Union from running away with the match:
The legend of Tim Melia continues to grow in Kansas City. His success has come out of nowhere, seemingly, and all for just $80,000 against the cap.
3. No rest for the weary
Sporting KC won’t have much time to celebrate their third U.S. Open Cup title. A cross-country, weekend trip to Portland, Ore., awaits Sporting KC, who sit 1 point ahead of the Timbers for sixth place in the MLS Western Conference.
A win can propel Sporting KC into a tie for second place. A loss, however, would open the door for the San Jose Earthquakes and Houston Dynamo, who are two and four points back, respectively.
After 120 minutes in difficult conditions, Sporting KC will have some tired legs. Worse, though, is that Peter Vermes’ side could be without Soni Mustivar after he picked up a knock in the second half Wednesday. Chance Myers, Sinovic and Nemeth, too, each came up gimpy during the win.
Expect to see another reserve-heavy side on Saturday in an important match.
▪ Quintilla has ice in his veins, according to his edited Wikipedia page, and evident by a postgame quote reported on by The Star’s Sam McDowell:
▪ Matt Besler and Graham Zusi avenged their recent PK struggles, converting must-make situations in sudden death.