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Sporting KC falls to Houston in US Open Cup

SKC won all the stat categories except the one that counts



Marinos Tzionis got the start on the right for SKC | Credit Thad Bell

Sporting Kansas City’s run in the 2023 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup came to an end in Houston Wednesday night in the Round of 32. Dynamo forward Thorleifur Úlfarsson scored the lone goal for the home side.

Manager Peter Vermes switched up ten of the eleven starters from the group that took the 2-1 win at the Seattle Sounders on Sunday. With games coming fast and furious right now for the struggling SKC side, Vermes had to balance out the players and get a little creative. The only returning starter was Gadi Kinda. Rarely seen Nemanja Radoja started at the six while recently reported Stephan Afrifa made his first appearance for Sporting KC, slotting in at center forward. Marinos Tzionis started on the right with Khiry Shelton on the left.

The backline saw the return of Graham Zusi on the right with Chris Rindov and Robert Castellanos as the center backs. The captain for this match was Roger Espinoza, making his return to the left-back spot, a position he had played in his early days with SKC and in his time with Wigan in England.


SKC started off strong but fell victim to a mistake and a very well-placed shot. Castellanos attempted to head a ball out of danger but it fell to Úlfarsson. The Iceland native’s touch took him to the top of the arc where he laced a shot through the defense and just inside the post past a diving John Pulskamp.

Sporting KC gained an advantage in the 35th minute when Tzionis broke past Chase Gaspar. The Dynamo defender pulled him down on the edge of the box, earning a straight red card. Kinda’s shot on the restart was well-placed but Dynamo keeper Andrew Tarbell made a good save on the attempt.

Kinda and Tzionis were both showing well in the attack, creating several opportunities but one of the best chances early in the game found Afrifa in the box. The rookie forward got too far under the ball and sent it over the bar. Rindov had a pair of good looks off of corners but one went high and the other off the crossbar. SKC had a shot deflect off the post and a few just go wide.

Houston had two shots and one on goal compared to SKC’s seventeen and four. SKC doubled Houston in possession, passing, and almost every other stat except the one that mattered the most in the end.

After struggling all season to score and earn points, SKC’s road does not get easier. The win at number one in the West Seattle on Sunday showed they can play well, but they will now play three more matches in the next ten days. At home versus Minnesota (May 13th) and then on the road at LAFC (May 17th) and at St. Louis (May 20th).

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