The Seattle Sounders walked into a raucous Livestrong Sporting Park on Wednesday night hoping to pick up their record-setting fourth consecutive U.S. Open Cup title, but Sporting Kansas City had other ideas. The club, buoyed by their home crowd and some dicey refereeing, took the Sounders to extra time and then penalties, where they prevailed, 3-2, to claim their first trophy since 2004.
The first half saw each team have one chance apiece. Sporting almost tallied when Kei Kamara's shot took a deflection and beat Michael Gspurning, but it hit the crossbar and rolled away harmlessly. Later on, Eddie Johnson rose to beat a corner kick and headed it well, but Jimmy Nielsen made a fine save to deny the Sounders' striker.
Aside from those two chances, there wasn't much to speak of. The match was ugly and neither team could string together any passes, let alone challenge the goal, but then Ricardo Salazar got involved in the 84th minute.
Salazar has never been afraid to blow his whistle and he showed no hesitation in pointing to the spot when the ball struck Zach Scott's hand in the penalty box. The ball wasn't a shot or a pass to anyone in particular, but a wayward cross going away from goal. Still, Salazar blew the whistle, Kamara buried the penalty and Sporting were in front.
With just six minutes remaining and Seattle not looking the least bit threatening to that point, it figured that Kansas City would have no problem holding onto their lead. That wouldn't be the case, though, and it would be because of Scott, who made up for his handball. He got on the end of a Mauro Rosales free kick and nodded it past Nielsen to get his team level just two minutes after they fell behind.
Once the back-to-back goal madness ended, the match began to look a lot like the first 83 minutes. It was ugly again and choppy and tired legs did not make things better. Eventually the teams played out the 90 minutes and then 30 minutes of extra time without anything doing to send the match to penalties.
Gspurning got a hand on Kamara's penalty, but he couldn't hold it and it found the net. Brad Evans answered with a good penalty and the two teams were even after one round. Roger Espinoza then stepped to the ball and hit a slow roller down the middle that Gspurning stopped easily. Marc Burch and Matt Besler then traded good penalties, but Osvaldo Alonso then skied his, getting the penalties back level at 2-2 after two rounds.
Graham Zusi, with a rush of blood to the head, arrogance or who knows what else, then tried to chip Gspurning, only to hit it well over the bar. Seattle had the advantage again, but Nielsen saved him from being the goat with a save of Christian Tiffert to keep Sporting level. Gspurning then answered Nielsen with a save of his own, but Salazar controversially ruled that he was off his line and allowed Paulo Nagamura to take his penalty again, which he made, to put Sporting up 3-2 and on the cusp of the title.
If Nielsen could stop Eddie Johnson, Sporting would win the trophy. He jumped up and down, pointed one way, ran over that way and then back to the middle, all while Johnson was staring at him. Eventually, Johnson took his penalty, but it was not a good one. It was just as far over the bar as Alonso's, ending Seattle's U.S. Open Cup run and handing the 2012 title to Kansas City.