KANSAS CITY, Kansas (AP) — Ghana-born forward Latif Blessing scored midway through the first half, Daniel Salloi added a goal in the second and Sporting Kansas City held on to beat the New York Red Bulls 2-1 on Wednesday for its fourth U.S. Open Cup title.
The fast-paced match featured plenty of chances by both Major League Soccer clubs, but it was the pint-sized Blessing whose header in the 25th minute that put Sporting KC ahead to stay.
The Red Bulls’ Michael Murillo had just won a free kick, but Kansas City quickly cleared and went on the counter-attack. Graham Zusi got the ball on the wing, and the U.S. national team mainstay curled in a cross that the Blessing managed to connect with between four defenders.
Blessing’s goal came shortly after a hard tackle left him lying on the turf in pain. He was only out of the game for a moment, but he was still limping after a hydration break at the 30-minute mark on a hot, muggy night, so manager Peter Vermes decided to substitute a few minutes later.
It was Salloi who came on and, despite a hip injury that had him questionable to play, he managed to get loose in the 66th minute and put a pass from Benny Feilhaber into the back of the net.
The goal proved crucial when the Red Bulls’ Bradley Wright-Phillips scored in extra time.
Sporting KC won its first championship in the country’s oldest ongoing club tournament in 2004, when it was known as the Wizards. The club added titles in 2012 and 2015, both of them requiring a shootout, and is now the first MLS club with four major trophies since 2012.
The perennial powerhouse also won the MLS Cup in 2013.
Sporting KC improved to 4-0 in MLS Cup and Open Cup finals under Vermes, who has displayed a remarkable ability to massage and overhaul his roster each year. And a solid performance by goalkeeper Tim Melia, featuring several dazzling second-half saves, made him 11-0-2 in Open Cup games.
Meanwhile, the result was another bitter disappointment in a major competition for the Red Bulls, who lost their only other Open Cup final to the Chicago Fire in 2003.
New York is the only original MLS club that has never captured the MLS Cup or Open Cup.