Sporting Kansas City used a lock-down defense and a goal from Rapids-killer Teal Bunbury to defeat Colorado 2-0 in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup in front of 14,868 fans at Livestrong Sporting Park.
Just over two weeks ago, Colorado fought back from a 2-0 halftime deficit to earn a draw with Kansas City at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
In the locker room after the game, I asked defender Matt Besler what changed between the two matches. He said:
"Our attitude. We were at home, we wanted to make sure we drove the game. In Colorado, we sat back too much and let them have the ball and let them dictate the play. We wanted to make sure we pressured higher up the field this game."
Sporting KC enjoyed the majority of the possession in the first half, but too many chances were left unfinished.
As an example, in the 11th minute, Besler put one of his Rory Delap-like long throw-ins into the penalty area. Defender Chance Myers tried to use his heel to direct it into the net, but it bounced up and over the crossbar.
The match was also incredibly physical. Sporting KC and Colorado combined for 32 total fouls and five yellow cards.
Sporting KC got credit for the first goal in the 27th minute. Midfielder Graham Zusi put a 40-yard free-kick in the penalty area for Aurelien Collin. Goalkeeper Matt Pickens made a spectacular save on Collin's header, pushing it onto the post. Unfortunately for Pickens, it then came back and bounced off of his gloves and into the back of the net.
Originally given to Collin, the goal was changed to an own-goal.
Colorado seemed to wake up after the goal was scored. Two minutes later, forward Wells Thompson took a shot from approximately 40 yards out, but goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen punched the ball clear, his first save of the night.
The Rapids seemed to carry this renewed energy into the second half. Seven minutes after the restart, midfielder Martin Rivero brought the ball up the right sideline and put a cross into the 18-yard box. There it found Jamie Castrillon, who one-timed the ball off of the post. The ball then bounced out to Edu's feet, but Collin broke up the play and cleared the ball from danger.
In the 61st minute, Bunbury made a nice play to keep the ball in play along the left sideline. He then took the ball into the penalty area and took a shot, but put the ball over the bar.
The 69th minute featured some end-to-end action. Sporting KC's Graham Zusi had a close-in shot deflected that Colorado turned into a quick counter-attack which Collin haulted with a well-timed tackle near the top of the 18-yard box.
In the 79th minute, Bunbury notched his sixth goal in eight matches against Colorado. Second half substitute Soony Saad crossed the ball in from the right. Intended for C.J. Sapong, Kosuke Kimura got to it first and headed it straight up in the air. Sapong got the better of the second duel and headed the ball to Bunbury, who volleyed home from seven yards out.
In the postgame press conference, Bunbury was asked if he was in a groove. He said:
"I feel like I'm in that groove. I feel like a lot of strikers, you know you get in streaks and things like that, but the ultimate goal for me is to try to work hard on the field. The goal is, obviously, I want to score every game, but the things off the ball as well, you know, working hard defensively, getting in good positions, making good runs. Things like that really help out the rest of the team."
The last ten minutes of the game produced a lot of physical play in the midfield, but no scoring chances for either team.
Sporting KC will now have 11 days until their next match when they host Toronto FC on June 16th at 7:30 p.m. CDT. That match starts a stretch of five matches in 13 days.
The next Open Cup match for Sporting KC will be June 26th, also at 7:30 p.m. CDT, when they host the Dayton Dutch Lions of USL PRO.