A Danny Hoesen goal in the opening minutes of the match was countered by a Diego Rubio equalizer later in the stanza. The two teams then battled to a 1-1 draw over another half and two periods of extra time before settling the game from the spot.
Even the penalty kick shootout went to sudden death, as Sporting’s Matt Besler converted on the host’s sixth kick, but Quakes defender Victor Bernardez has his attempt stopped by goalkeeper Tim Melia to end the often tense affair at Children’s Mercy Park.
Three-time Open Cup champions Kansas City advances to it third final in six years, while San Jose matches its best-ever tournament finish with another loss at the final’s doorstep.
"Kansas City is really good team,” said head coach Chris Leitch. “You know that every time you play these guys, especially at their place, they have got special players and good weapons.”
The Quakes have not beaten Sporting KC in their two league matches this season either, and they entered Wednesday’s semifinal as clear underdogs. As such, they featured a much more conservative game plan than in their last two matches — home wins against the Colorado Rapids and Columbus Crew SC — which allowed the hosts to dominate every offensive statistic.
“At times, as in any game but especially when you play here, you need to defend collectively extremely well,” added Leitch, “and I think that for the majority part of tonight we did that."
Sporting out shot the Earthquakes 31 to 11 over 120 minutes of soccer. If not for the heroics of goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell, who made 11 saves on the night and punched away countless clearances as well, Kansas City would have wrapped up the win well before regulation. Tarbell even stopped Benny Feilhaber in the first round of the penalty kick shootout — the World Cup veteran does not miss very often from the spot — but he alone couldn’t secure a victory for San Jose.
"We needed to work as a team, which we did,” said Tarbell. “Everyone worked tough and everyone worked hard. We needed to be disciplined and we were solid in the back the whole night. The longer we stayed in it, the better advantage we had.”
The defensive effort of the Quakes certainly did frustrate Kansas City, but the home team didn’t let that distract from their own goal of advancing to the final, which they host on September 20 against the winner of the other semifinal between FC Cincinnati and the New York Red Bulls.
San Jose is now left with a league game at the Houston Dynamo on Saturday, entering the weekend with tired legs and a wounded spirit. But with their quest for the Open Cup over, the Quakes must turn their attention back to the league, where they currently sit in sixth place in the Western Conference playoffs chase. There are 11 games remaining for San Jose to secure a trip to the postseason, and that now becomes their only goal.