Making their second and first Open Cup semifinal appearance respectively, the Kansas City Wizards and the San Jose Earthquakes made it clear from the opening whistle Tuesday night at the Blue Valley Athletic Complex that they came to win.
In the end, the Wizards emerged victorious, as Igor Simutenkov's 45th-minute penalty kick conversion proved to be the 1-0 game-winner. Kansas City will face the winner of Wednesday's other semifinal match between the Chicago Fire and the A-League's Charleston Battery. The U.S. Open Cup Final will be played on Sept. 22.
Tuesday's match began with sprightly play by both sides as the ball swiftly ran from end to end propelled by purposeful passes out of the back and clever midfield interplay that fed the energetic frontlines.
In the fourth minute however, San Jose's strike force was stripped of MLS scoring leader, Brian Ching, as a Jimmy Conrad tackle knocked the Quakes' forward out of the match with a left ankle sprain. Arturo Alvarez was inserted in right midfield for San Jose three minutes later.
The injury did little to slow either club as the fast-paced action continued. Wizards' left winger Alex Zotinca was the recipient of a number of driven crosses, but he failed to beat Jon Conway, the Quakes' 6-foot-6-inch goalkeeper, while Brian Mullan and fellow midfielder Ronnie Ekelund did much to create chances for Canadian Dwayne De Rosario and U.S. international Landon Donovan up front for San Jose.
It seemed that a skillfully played first half would end fruitlessly for either side as the clock ticked down.
But in the 43rd minute Kansas City was rewarded for their attacking play as Josh Wolff wound through a congested box and was taken down by Ryan Cochrane after the ball was away. Referee Kevin Terry pointed to the spot somewhat belatedly and gave the Wizards an opportunity to carry a surge of momentum into the locker room.
Simutenkov stepped up to take the kick and drilled a low bullet by Conway and into the net in the 45th minute.
After the half, both teams continued their aggressive play.
Wizards' midfielder Preki made his second appearance of the season coming on for Simutenkov at the break and repeatedly threatened with his patented cut back creating chances for Wolff and himself early in the second stanza. The most dangerous chance occurred in the 73rd minute as Preki cut near midfield and played Wolff in alone with Conway. Wolff beat Conway deep in the right corner of the, box but his cross was cleared for a corner.
The 41-year-old's stay was brief though as Wizards coach Bob Gansler opted for fresher legs up front taking Preki off for Justin Detter in 80th minute.
San Jose was never out of the match as they pushed forward mainly through De Rosario as Donovan dropped to midfield in place of the substituted Ekelund. But it was a Wizards' error that aided the Quakes bid to tie the match.
Wizards' keeper Bo Oshoniyi, making his second start in succession, nearly made himself the goat in the 87th minute when he shanked a goal kick over the right touch line 40 yards out. De Rosario took the ensuing throw in and rushed into the Wizards' box only to be met by Oshoniyi who blocked the attempt on goal with his torso.
A minute later San Jose defender Eddie Robinson was permitted space and struck just outside of Oshoniyi's right post.
As San Jose's wind began to fade, the Wizards closed out the match and reached the final of the tournament that bears their owner's name, the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup for the first time.
Robert Rusert is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.
San Jose Earthquakes vs. Kansas City Wizards
Aug. 24, 2004 -- Blue Valley Complex - Overland Park, Kan.
KC -- Igor Simutenkov (penalty kick) 45
San Jose Earthquakes -- Jon Conway, Craig Waibel, Jeff Agoos, Ryan Cochrane (Eddie Robinson 76), Todd Dunivant, Brian Mullan, Ronnie Ekelund (Tighe Dombrowski 56), Richard Mulrooney, Dwayne De Rosario, Landon Donovan, Brian Ching (Arturo Alvarez 7) (Chris Brown 71).
Substitutes Not Used: Wes Hart, Pat Onstad.
TOTAL SHOTS: 6 (Tighe Dombrowski 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 2 (Arturo Alvarez 1, Dwayne De Rosario 1); FOULS: 12 (Arturo Alvarez 2, Todd Dunivant 2); OFFSIDES: 2 (Dwayne De Rosario 1, Craig Waibel 1); CORNER KICKS: 6 (Richard Mulrooney 4); SAVES: 4 (Jon Conway 3)
Kansas City Wizards -- Bo Oshoniyi, Taylor Graham, Jimmy Conrad, Nick Garcia, Jose Burciaga Jr., Igor Simutenkov (Preki 46) (Justin Detter 80), Diego Gutierrez, Kerry Zavagnin, Alex Zotinca, Josh Wolff (Jack Jewsbury 74), Davy Arnaud.
Substitutes Not Used: Francisco Gomez, Will Hesmer, Matt Taylor, Shavar Thomas.
TOTAL SHOTS: 14 (Alex Zotinca 5); SHOTS ON GOAL: 5 (Alex Zotinca 3); FOULS: 13 (Davy Arnaud 3); OFFSIDES: 5 (Davy Arnaud 2, Justin Detter 2); CORNER KICKS: 2 (Diego Gutierrez 1, Preki 1); SAVES: 2 (Bo Oshoniyi 2)
KC -- Jimmy Conrad (caution; Professional Foul) 62
SJ -- Brian Mullan (caution; Reckless Foul) 85
Referee: Kevin Terry
Referee's Assistants: -Craig Lowry; Jose Andrade
4th Official: Terry Vaughn
Time of Game: 1:52
All Statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial.