Rain stayed away from Sporting Park Tuesday night where Sporting KC bested Saint Louis F.C. 1–0 in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup.
Sporting Kansas City was clearly the best team on the pitch, outshooting the visitors 12–2 including five on target compared to zero for Saint Louis.
But Sporting KC just could not score. In the 17th minute, a free kick is redirected by SKC forward Dom Dwyer over keeper Mark Pais. Luckily for Pais and Saint Louis, their best friend, the cross bar, was there to save the day.
The pressure from Sporting KC ever increased as the match continued. After the match, the two coaches, Dale Schilly from Saint Louis and Peter Vermes for Kansas City, spoke of tired legs for Saint Louis F.C. coming off a busy past few weeks compared to Sporting KC’s players coming off of a bye week in MLS action.
The closest Sporting KC would come to scoring in the first half came was as the half was coming to a close. Pais and Amadou Dia are racing for a ball heading towards the endline. Dia wins the races and lobs the ball up towards the middle of the box where it finds soccer star Graham Zusi.
Any day, Zusi alone in front of the net without a keeper should be a goal. Except on this night. Saint Louis F.C. forward Mike Ambersley played smart and sprinted to the goal line in time to kick Zusi’s header out of danger.
“I knew (Zusi) was going to head it,” said Ambersley, “so I just tried to go to the goal line.”
Through all of the pressure from Sporting KC, Saint Louis FC was still able to find a few opportunities to attack Sporting keeper Tim Melia. Jermie Lynch seemed to be involved in every opportunity for STL FC.
Saint Louis’ best chance to take the lead came in the 12th minute. Ambersley picked off a pass and Lynch immediately turns up field passing all SKC defenders. Ambersley puts the ball up front and Melia races out. Lynch is unable to sneak the ball around the sliding keeper.
With the start of the second half, it was clear Sporting KC has no intention of losing this match. Saint Louis was having trouble clearing the ball and Sporting was out-playing the visitors.
The attack led to Zusi being taken down in the box by Brandon Barklage, but the official allowed play to continue. The record setting crowd was not happy.
Pais continued his fantastic play from the previous U.S. Open Cup and USL games. Even a ball deflected by a teammate at the last second could not get by Pais.
Saint Louis’ next best chance of the match came in the 63rd minute when Patrick Doody, back on loan from the Chicago Fire after being called up to play against the Revolution from New England this past weekend, out ran a Sporting KC defender down the sideline.
Doody sends the ball across the box, coming to an untouched Lynch. He may have overrun the ball as it looks as if he has to lean back to make contact. His header goes high of the net as a defender races over to apply pressure.
Pais keeps punching and kicking balls away from the net. Finally in the 70th minute, the wall can hold no longer. Benny Feilhaber sends a beauty of a ball into the box where Zusi is slipped by the Saint Louis defense. Zusi’s header went inches below Pais’ hand and the blue confetti shot out of cannons behind the Saint Louis net.
Charles Renken had come into the match just before the goal for Brian Ciesulka. Renken helped spring Ambersely in the 83rd minute. The best chance for Saint Louis to bring the match even late flew slightly high and wide.
Saint Louis F.C. would not concede another goal late and the match came to a close in favor of Kansas City.
Schilly said he was “really happy” with the way his team played and sounded appreciative of the St. Louligans who made the trip.
Vermes though was not as big on the Louligans as the Saint Louis players and coaches were. When asked if this he felt a rivalry could be starting between the two cities, he responded, “Yeah, not much.” Adding, “it was our crowd. There were a few people over there. I think I heard from thing from them a few times, but really not a lot.”
Verses may need to get his hearing checked. The speakers at 11 in Sporting Park may have damaged his ears.
Sporting KC will advance to the fifth round of the tournament with its opponent to be determined Thursday morning.
Saint Louis F.C., now knocked out of the tournament, turns its full attention back to the USL league play. The team next plays Friday night at the Soccer Park in Fenton against another USL team on short short, the Colorado Springs Switchbacks F.C., who lost to the Colorado Rapids 4–1 on Tuesday in the U.S. Open Cup.
Dear Major League Soccer,
The Sporting KC vs Saint Louis F.C. match was the most attended Fourth Round U.S. Open Cup match in modern history by over 3,000 fans. The match was also better attended than any other U.S. Open Cup match at Sporting Park, including Sporting KC’s 2012 victory over the Seattle Sounders to win the U.S. Open Cup. My conclusion is that not only does Saint Louis love soccer, but Kansas City would love to play us in soccer. You know where to find us when you all are ready to award this city a franchise. You do not need an owner to award one. See the Blues as an example.
This story is brought to you by Will Bramlett. Will is the former Sports Editor of the Tulsa Collegian and a prolific sports twitter user at @YBrammer. He’ll be providing game reports this season for Saint Louis FC, where he is also a season ticket holder.
US Open Cup – Saint Louis FC at Sporting KC
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