by Brian Turrel
Sporting Kansas City took another step on the road toward its fifth U.S. Open Cup with a 2-1 win over the Houston Dynamo Wednesday night at Children’s Mercy Park.
Kansas City gave up the lead in the first half, but came barreling back in the second thanks to two goals from forward and team captain Johnny Russell.
Despite nagging injuries that have kept him listed as questionable on recent injury reports, Russell was all over the pitch on Wednesday — attacking down the left and right sidelines, dropping low to defend, and taking on some very physical challenges from Dynamo defenders.
Russell’s game-winner came on a 73rd minute penalty kick earned by Daniel Salloi, who was tripped by Houston’s Daniel Steres as he tried to make a run on the Dynamo goal. Russell took a big run-up and slapped his left-footed kick into the lower right corner of the goal.
The Scottish forward tied the score in the 52nd minute after he snared a Houston clearance about 20 yards out. Though he got pushed to the turf by forward Beto Avila, Russell maintained possession, made a turn among three defenders and blasted in his shot from outside the penalty area.
Corey Baird got the Dynamo on the board near the end of the first half, receiving a beautiful through pass down the middle from Darwin Quintero and then outracing Logan Ndenbe and Andreu Fontas to get a shot on goal from 12 yards out.
Kansas City had plenty of chances, using long, diagonal passes to get in behind the Houston defense. Speedsters Ndenbe and Salloi put the right side of the Houston defense under pressure repeatedly, and Sporting outshot the Dynamo 18-7, despite holding only 40 percent of the possession.
After the match, head coach Peter Vermes sang the praises of Russell’s all-out effort.
“He’s the captain,” said the coach. “He’s the leader. That’s why the guys respect him. He wins all the time. He wins in practice, and he brings it to the game week in and week out.”
Kansas City now advances to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup, a single elimination tournament that features teams from several professional and amateur soccer leagues.
The opponent will be USL League One team Union Omaha, which defeated Minnesota United FC 2-1 on Wednesday. The match will be played at Children’s Mercy Park on June 22.
Sporting’s next regular season game will be at home on May 28 against the Vancouver Whitecaps. The game will kick off at 8 p.m.