SACRAMENTO, CALIF. (July 27, 2022) – With the state fair blaring in the background, Sacramento Republic FC’s defense kept it calm once again.
Goalkeeper Danny Vitiello made eight saves, and the last non-MLS side remaining kept a clean sheet against Sporting Kansas City before winning in a shootout, 5-4, Wednesday night in a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Semifinal at Heart Health Park in Sacramento.
“It’s unreal and just happy to get the win,” Vitiello said. “It just speaks about this group and what we want to achieve.”
Vitiello made two crucial saves in the second period of extra time before coming up with another in the shootout for Republic FC, which is the first lower-division club to reach the U.S. Open Cup Final since Charleston Battery in 2008.
“The boys gave everything and we rode our luck at times, which you have to do against MLS sides,” Sacramento Republic FC head coach Mark Briggs said.
Maalique Foster scored an outrageous Panenka in the shootout, and Rodrigo “RoRo” Lopez netted the match-winner for Sacramento Republic FC, which now advances to play Orlando City SC at Explorida Stadium in the championship final on Sept. 7.
“Maalique is a character (and) ’RoRo’ was always going to be (kick taker) No. 5,” Briggs said. “Now all that matters is that we’re in the final. Everything else is a little blurry, to be honest.”
Sacramento has picked off three Major League Soccer franchises (San Jose Earthquakes, Los Angeles Galaxy & Sporting KC) in this year’s tournament, and now has its sight set on one more.
“This is the biggest night of my coaching career and to now go to Orlando with a chance to play in CONCACAF Champions League you have to ask, is this real?” Briggs said. “It’s a massive night but we’re not done.”
Sporting KC had more of the ball and more shots on goal in the first half, but Republic FC’s goalkeeper had made two stops near halftime to help the home side stay all square heading to the locker room at the break.
“(Republic FC) played hard. They fought for everything,” Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes said. “They were throwing their bodies around and were blocking shots.”
The second half was more even, with Sacramento getting more physical and earning a pair of yellow cards and Sergio Gontan Gallardo forcing Sporting KC goalkeeper John Puhlskamp into a diving save in the 62nd minute.
Johnny Russell and Daniel Salloi nearly combined to give Sporting KC the lead in the first overtime period, but Vitiello stood firm and got some help from his crossbar as Salloi hit the frame of the goal in the 98th minute.
“We had a lot of chances in the game, we just didn’t put them away and it’s unfortunate because we played well,” Vermes said. “There were a lot of different little things that went wrong but we just couldn’t finish.”
Vitiello came off his line to stop Russell in the 116th minute, and the match went to kicks from the mark to determine a winner after a late scramble by Sacramento earned a corner but Lee Desmond’s effort went sailing.
Both teams converted their first two penalties before Vitiello stopped William Agada’s shot, but the goalkeeper was judged to have encroached off his line and the kick was retaken with Agada burying his second attempt.
Luther Archimede stutter-stepped and scored for Sacramento to make it 3-3, and KC’s Felipe Hernandez followed with an easy goal to retake the lead 4-3 but received a yellow card for unsportsmanlike conduct (taunting) after his kick.
Foster strode to the spot and calmly scored a Panenka-style goal before doing a backflip in celebration.
“I heard (the crowd gasp) but the thing is I had to show what we can do,” Foster said.
With the score tied 4-4, Vitiello got his timing right and dove to his left to stop Graham Zusi’s attempt, setting up Lopez to score the winner and send a non-MLS side to the Open Cup Final for the first time in 14 years.
-LAMAR HUNT U.S. OPEN CUP MATCH REPORT-
Sacramento Republic FC (Div. II USLC) vs. Sporting Kansas City (Div. I MLS) - Semifinal
July 27, 2022 – 7:30 p.m. PT – 86 degrees, sunny
Heart Health Park; Sacramento, Calif. (11,500 attendance – Sell Out)
SAC – Damià Viader (goal), Luis Felipe (goal), Luther Archimède (goal), Maalique Foster (goal), Rodrigo López (goal)
SKC – Johnny Russell (goal), Dániel Sallói (goal), William Agada (goal), Felipe Hernández (goal), Graham Zusi (saved)
SAC: 31-Daniel Vitiello; 4-Lee Desmond, 24-Conor Donovan, 5-Dan Casey, 3-Damià Viader; 20-Matt LaGrassa (19-Nick Ross, 69), 8-Rodrigo López (C), 96-Luis Felipe, 2-Jack Gurr (12-Ferrety Sousa, 90), 7-Keko Gontán (99-Maalique Foster, 69); 42-Douglas Martínez (17-Luther Archimède, 118)
Substitutes not used: 1-Carlos Saldaña, 14-Duke Lacroix, 34-Rafael Jauregui
Head coach: Mark Briggs
SKC: 1-John Pulskamp; 2-Ben Sweat (18-Logan Ndembe, 116), 3-Andreu Fontàs, 5-Nicolas Isimat-Mirin, 8-Graham Zusi; 26-Erik Thommy (21- Felipe Hernández, 83), 54-Rémi Walter, 15-Roger Espinoza, 20-Dániel Sallói, 7-Johnny Russell (C), 11-Khiry Shelton (23-William Agada, 61)
Substitutes not used: 22-Kendall McIntosh, 4-Robert Voloder, 24-Kayden Pierre, 27-Marinos Tzionis
Head coach: Peter Vermes
Stats Summary: SAC / SKC
Shots: 13 / 31
Shots on Goal: 2 / 8
Saves: 8 / 2
Corner Kicks: 3 / 12
Fouls: 14 / 14
Offside: 1 / 2
SKC – Ben Sweat (Caution) 37th minute
SAC – Luis Felipe (Catuion) 58
SAC – Nick Ross (Caution) 94
SKC – Felipe Hernández (Caution) 120+
Referee: Allen Chapman
AR1 & 2: Ian Anderson, Tiffini Turpin
4th Official: Brandon Stevis