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Ball watching cost the Cup

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The Red Bulls defense were caught napping against Sporting KC in the US Open Cup final

MLS: U.S. Open Cup Final-New York Red Bulls at Sporting KC
Tim Melia stops Bradley Wright-Phillips
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Red Bulls knew they were going to be in a tough enviroment when the final was going to be at Children’s Mercy Park. They played against a side that can transform and switch styles so good that even when they let go of their most dangerous scoring threat, they can still play at a dangerous tempo.

But sadly ball watching is a common sin to allow some players to sneak in and find a way to convert chances as the Red Bulls fell to Sporting Kansas City by a final of two goals to one and the home side winning their fourth US Open Cup title in four tries.

After digesting the pressure from Sporting the Red Bulls were able to attack and tried to string up some plays to create chances. They found some moments where they were able to get shots on frame and Tim Melia made some saves.

But when Sporting pounces to take their chances, you must always pay attention when you defend near goal. A long ball was sent down the far side of the field snd Graham Zusi went to retrieve it.

Then he crossed it to the middle of the Red Bulls area and out of no where Latif Blessing snuck in and powered a header shot past Ryan Meara for the opening goal and the lead in the 25th minute. Two critical errors were made by the NY defense.

Kemar Lawrence allowed Zusi the time and space to collect the ball when he should’ve been marking his man, then when the cross came the rest of the backline ignored a trailing player in Blessing to get a free shot on goal. Michael Murillo never turned his head to watch out for attackers.

Daniel Salloi came on for Blessing in the 43rd minute as he injured himself during attacking runs and challenging Murillo down the near side of the field. He would get the second goal on more ball watching.

As the second half was going and a feeling of hope to keep Sporting KC’s lead to just a goal so the club can find an equalizer were quickly dashed. As Benny Feilhaber brought the ball up and waited for the perfect time to deliver a solid ball.

Salloi timed his run perfectly and broke thru the defense with Sal Zizzo trailing him and when he saw Meara challenging for the ball, a quick shot that did deflect off of Meara, but still rolled into an open net to give the home side the lead in the 66th minute.

Gonzalo Veron subbed into the match in the 71st minute and he would help Bradley Wright-Phillips convert a chance inside second half stoppage time for his fourth of the season and while there was a last gasp effort from Felipe to try a free kick, the ball was wide of the near post.

Sporting Kansas City would celebrate their championship at home and for the second time this club would earn their second place medals. "I'd like to congratulate Sporting Kansas City on their title. There are no consolation prizes in finals, but I feel like our team played great.” said Jesse Marsch.

“I feel like our team went after the game, dictated the pace of the game in many ways, controlled many parts of it and were unlucky not to come away with more. We've got a young group of guys that are really building and coming together in a really good way.

I thought a lot of them played really well today. I thought a lot of our best players were some of our young guys, so it's really good to see. As heartbreaking as this is, we will use this. We'll use this to build confidence because this is a tough place to play, this is a really good team, and we came here and we played it really, really well."

While some have questioned the move to use Ryan Meara in goal for this final, the truth is that this was the right call. He played well in all five US Open Cup matches and even if Luis Robles was starting he wouldn’t have saved that opening goal from Blessing either.

Meara showed very well and when Gerso Fernandes had a breakaway chance late in the first half with Tyler Adams trailing the play, a big chest save by Meara to push it over the end line on the far side.

But once again a US Open Cup chance has come and gone with nothing to show for it, over two to three hundred visiting supporters traveled to this final and left empty handed.

But while there is some matches left to clinch a playoff spot and the hope is to play in the wild card game, we shall see what Marsch and company need to do when they travel to face the Columbus Crew at Maphre stadium.