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Sporting Kansas City into US Open Cup Quarters

Sporting Kansas City dismantled Tulsa FC on goals from Hernandez, Afrifa, and Tzionis.



Thad Bell Photography

Sporting Kansas City is into the quarterfinals of the 2024 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup after a 4-0 dismantling of USL Championship side Tulsa FC. Two goals from Felipe Hernandez and single strikes from Stephen Afrifa and Marinos Tzionis gained the victory Tuesday night at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas.

A tournament steeped in history. Sporting Kansas City, a club with four titles in the tournament. An opportunity to reach the quarterfinals. Yes, Tuesday evening was a chance for needed joy and abounding smiles for club and fans alike. Assuming the team got it right.

Despite five games in 14 days and despite a seven-game winless streak in MLS play, Sporting Manager Peter Vermes put out a strong starting eleven to face USL Championship club FC Tulsa in the Round of 16 of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup:

Sporting had their way early and often against Tulsa, clad in their bright pink. Runs between and behind the backline, interchanging movement in the midfield, and patterned Kansas City wing play created a bevy of strong chances for the hosts. So many it’s easier just to list them:

  • 10th minute, Erik Thommy’s curling shot from left of box forces a lay out to his back post for Tulsa goalkeeper Michael Creek.
  • 17th, again Thommy from slightly closer, hits a shot that is deflected then swatted onto the far post by Creek.
  • Stephen Afrifa takes a rebound of a shot from a free kick off his chest and hits a dipping volley that rings off the crossbar.
  • 26th, Afrifa strikes a menacing drive from Thommy’s repeated spot that rattles the upper 90, no literally, the 90 degree angle where the right post meets the crossbar.

But as soon as Tulsa’s Philip Goodrum played across Sporting’s box for Camilo Ponce on a rare attacking foray, fear ran rampant in every Sporting KC fan. For “typical Sporting” was about to happen. A feeling many felt as Sporting was pushed to extra time in their 2-1 win over USL League One combatants Union Omaha in the Round of 32. Yet, the heart was saved dismay as John Pulskamp knocked down the close-range attempt and pounced on the ball to keep Kansas City in control.

Two minutes after center back Dany Rosero forced a point blank save from a corner, Felipe Hernandez, serving up dimes all night, hit a free kick just outside Tulsa’s box deep on the right wing. Afrifa, using the old moving screen trick, distracted the defense, allowing Hernandez’s drive to ricochet off a defender and into the net for the long-awaited, well-deserved 1-0 lead.

But stoppage time would see fireworks as well. A minute in, Agada struck from a Thommy feed at the near post only to see his shot flicked away by Creek. However, on the subsequent corner, Agada rang the post and Afrifa followed to knock home the rebound for a comforting, but not yet comfortable 2-0 lead over the bright pinkies.

To begin the 2nd half, Memo Rodriguez came on for Thommy and Robert Castellanos came on for Rosero.

Then, all said goodbye to Tulsa’s #20, Patrick Seagrist who earned his second yellow of the match in the early moments. One had to think the rout was on.

By the 62nd minute, the match had devolved into more of a back-and-forth match. That is until Hernandez simply outclassed FC Tulsa’s left back and Creek. Receiving from Agada, Hernandez executed a double step-over and cooly deposited the ball low inside the far post for the 3-0 lead.

Don’t breathe… Tzionis, from nearly the same spot, ripped a shot into the roof of the net off a pass from Afrifa only two minutes later for the 4-0.

The rout was nearly assured, but why stop now? Vermes brought on Daniel Salloi for Nemanja Radoja in the 68th, a clear attacking sub.

A Tulsa FC shot from Stefan Stojanovic was met by an aggressive Pulskamp in the 73rd minute. But defense wasn’t the draw for the fans in attendance.

To that end, Vermes added Johnny Russell and Alan Pulido to the mix for Tzionis and Afrifa for the final 15 minutes.

Pulido joined the bar ringing gang in the 88th minute as he clanged a shot off the crossbar from close range, and both Agada and Salloi were denied at close range a minute later.

But no other attempts brought the crowd to their feet and the match ended 4-0.

Only three wins, albeit of the more demanding type, to a title.

Sporting will now travel to Portland on the weekend to take on the Timbers in MLS play.

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