Sporting Kansas City staged an epic fightback on Tuesday night in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round of 32, scoring four unanswered goals—including a last-gasp equalizer in regulation time—to secure an unforgettable 4-2 victory over FC Dallas at Children’s Mercy Park.
Trailing 2-0 at intermission on Dallas goals from Franco Jara and Eddie Munjoma, Sporting grabbed a goal back through Nikola Vujnovic and sent the instant classic into extra time when Marinos Tzionis planted an inch-perfect header into the back of the net just seconds after Dallas defender Jose Antonio Martinez was sent off for a red card offense.
In the ascendancy during the 30-minute overtime session, Sporting turned their deficit upside down by vaulting ahead on a 94th-minute own goal and sealing the sensational triumph with a tenacious 113th-minute tally from impactful substitute Khiry Shelton.
With a thrilling win in the books, Sporting has improved to a perfect 5-0-0 against FC Dallas in the Open Cup and snapped the Texas club’s six-match unbeaten run at Children’s Mercy Park dating back to 2018. Sporting’s run in the historic competition will now continue on either May 24 or 25, with the Round of 16 draw taking place this Thursday at 7:30 p.m. CT on Futbol Americas, streaming live on ESPN Plus.
Manager Peter Vermes’ men have prevailed in 10 consecutive Open Cup home matches at Children’s Park dating back to 2015 and secured their first victory since March 5, ending a six-game winless drought ahead of Saturday’s MLS regular season visit to the Portland Timbers. The Western Conference clash will kick off at 9 p.m. CT with live coverage on 38 The Spot, the Sporting KC app and SportingKC.com.
Wholesale changes and a retooled 3-5-2 formation highlighted the Sporting Kansas City lineup in the club’s first U.S. Open Cup fixture since June 2019. Goalkeeper Jon Pulskamp—a 21-year-old who signed a long-term contract with Sporting last week—was protected by a back three of Kaveh Rad, Ben Sweat and deputizing captain Andreu Fontas. Homegrown midfielders Ozzie Cisneros, Jake Davis and Felipe Hernandez were flanked by a pair of wingbacks in fellow Academy product Kayden Pierre as well as debutant Spencer Glass, who had joined the first team earlier this week on short-term loan from Sporting KC II. European newcomers Vujnovic and Tzionis partnered in attack, accounting for two of the nine Sporting players—all the starters but Fontas and Sweat—logging their maiden Open Cup appearances.
Dallas took only seven minutes to land the first punch, surging ahead on a goal from Jara. The 33-year-old Argentine intercepted a pass inside the penalty area and made Sporting pay for the costly giveaway, finishing inside the near post at a tight angle for his second goal of the 2022 Open Cup campaign.
Sporting’s slow start was further compounded in the 18th minute when Cisneros was forced to exit with a hamstring problem, summoning the versatile Cam Duke as his replacement. A moment later, Dallas nearly doubled their advantage as Jader Obrian raced down the right flank and whipped in a teasing cross that Rad poked behind for a corner kick. The ensuing set piece delivery resulted in havoc inside the box, but Sporting managed to clear upfield after the ball pinged around the area.
The hosts survived another major scare at the half-hour mark. Hungarian international winger Szabolcs Schon galloped forward and beat his marker along the endline before cutting a pass back across the face of the six-yard area, but a lurking Obrian was unable to apply the finishing touch under duress from a slew of Sporting defenders.
Munjoma lifted Dallas into a 2-0 lead after 34 minutes, curling home an impressive strike from outside the box following a quickfire attack involving Obrian, Jara and Nanu.
Faced with an uphill climb, Sporting began the second half with increased verve. A wave of low crosses from Vermes’ men put Dallas on the backfoot and a chance eventually fell to Davis at the top of the box, but his left-footed belter lifted high and wide of the target in the 48th minute. Not long later, Sweat curled in a delightful service that a leaping Vujnovic nodded over the crossbar.
Sporting continued to push the envelope in search of a lifeline and Tzionis forced Dallas goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer to make his first save in the 58th minute, pulling the trigger from long range. Seconds later, Sweat clipped a cross from the left edge of the box to Sweat, who went agonizingly close to planting his header into the corner for a dream debut goal.
Vujnovic grabbed a deserved goal back for Sporting in the 60th minute with a heady finish near the penalty spot. His team did well to create a turnover in Dallas’ own penalty area and Vujnovic, a 25-year-old Montenegrin international, did the rest by thrashing a sliding shot high into the roof of the net for his first tally in Sporting blue.
Vermes sensed his side had regained momentum and subbed in three regular starters past the hour mark: midfielder Remi Walter and forwards Shelton and Daniel Salloi. The visitors were next to threaten, however, and Sporting would breathe a huge sigh of relief in the 70th minute when Obrian secured a loose ball and fired wide with an open net at his mercy.
Captain Johnny Russell entered the action with a quarter-hour remaining and Sporting remained on the hunt, stitching a series of passes together before Hernandez hammered a shot narrowly over the bar. Shortly thereafter, Russell steamrolled down the left side and sent a diagonal ball to Cam Duke, whose low delivery nearly found an outstretched Shelton at the far post.
Duke was once again the provider in the 86th minute, lofting a ball from the right wing to the far post for Russell, but the Scottish winger’s contested header was secured by Maurer. Another 25-yard Hernandez firecracker then fizzed inches wide of Maurer’s left post, taking the slightest of deflections on its blistering flight.
A fervent Children’s Mercy Park crowd brimmed with energy as referee Malik Badawi added seven minutes of stoppage time, setting the stage for a wild conclusion to regulation.
The game’s complexion changed dramatically in the seventh minute of added time when Dallas defender Martinez received his marching orders for chopping Salloi to the turf and denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity. Maurer palmed Russell’s ensuing free kick over the bar but could do nothing about the goal that restored parity.
With Badawi on the cusp of blowing his whistle to end the game, Walter curled in a free kick that Tzionis glanced just inside the far right post for his first goal with Sporting and the all-important leveler that sent the contest into two 15-minute periods of extra time. The 98th-minute tally was the latest regulation goal in Sporting’s 27-year club history, delivering a gut punch to a downtrodden Dallas outfit.
Buzzing with belief, Sporting took their first lead of the night four minutes into overtime. Tzionis was isolated on the right channel and cut centrally before playing a no-look through ball to the on-running Shelton. His initial shot was blocked by Maurer, but the rebound caromed back off Dallas midfielder Edwin Cerrillo and looped into the net to send Children’s Mercy Park into delirium.
Shelton delivered the game-clinching dagger with 113 minutes on the clock. Weary along the backline, Dallas was caught lazy in possession by the predatory Shelton who won the ball with an aggressive press and slotted low into the back of the net for his first career Open Cup goal as a member of Sporting.