KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Dom Dwyer atoned for one bad kick with an unstoppable one – and then tacked on an assist for good measure.
After having a penalty kick saved in the second half of Tuesday night's US Open Cup quarterfinal against the shorthanded Houston Dynamo, Dwyer delivered the go-ahead goal in the 86th minute and followed that up with an assist on Krisztian Nemeth's insurance goal to complete Sporting Kansas City's 3-1 comeback victory.
It was the fifth goal in Open Cup play this year for Dwyer, and his team-leading 11th across all competitions, and it helped lift Sporting into a home semifinal against Real Salt Lake. Kansas City have reached the semifinals for the first time since winning their second Open Cup title in 2012, while Houston were eliminated after reaching the quarterfinals for the first time since 2009.
Designated Player Erick “Cubo” Torres made his competitive debut for the Dynamo as a second-half substitute, but had little impact on the match after entering in the 64th minute.
Houston had to play a man down after the 30th minute, when midfielder Luis Garrido was issued a straight red card for a reckless tackle on rookie left back Amadou Dia. But the Orange still led 1-0 after 70 minutes on Will Bruin's goal just before the hour mark and a penalty-kick save from Joe Willis shortly after that.
Benny Feilhaber equalized for Sporting in the 71st, though, setting the stage for Sporting's late match-winning flurry – and their club-record ninth straight home victory across all competitions.
Despite playing on only two days' rest after MLS action on Saturday, both sides fielded strong starting lineups and showed a willingness to get forward early – especially the Dynamo, who forced Sporting onto their heels for much of the first half-hour.
Kansas City looked for quick attacks during the run of play but could not penetrate the Dynamo's swarming defense. Houston, meanwhile, forced four corner kicks in the first 12 minutes alone, and five in the first 23, but were turned away each time.
Then Garrido slid two-footed into Dia near midfield, referee Ted Unkel went straight for his back pocket, and Sporting had their man advantage. They failed to press that advantage for some time, though, with sloppy passing derailing several possessions and Houston continuing to hold a solid defensive shape.
And in the 59th minute, the Dynamo – against the run of play, and off yet another corner kick – struck first, with Bruin scoring on a putback from close range after Ricardo Clark's header was blocked.
Sporting had a chance to equalize just four minutes later, after Brad Davis brought down right back Chance Myers in the penalty box, but Willis dived to his right to parry away Dwyer's spot kick and keep Houston up 1-0.
Feilhaber was denied in the 69th minute, when Kofi Sarkodie cleared his volley off the line, but his 71st-minute strike from just right of the penalty arc – off an assist from center back Matt Besler – beat the sprawling Willis and pulled Sporting even.
Kansas City continued to press for a winner in regulation – and got it when Nemeth sent a pass to Dwyer with the outside of his right foot and Dwyer fired past Willis' near post. Two minutes after that, it was Dwyer's turn to return the favor by setting up Nemeth for a shot that deflected off defender A.J. Cochran and gave Willis no chance.
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.