KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Sporting Kansas City waited all year for their first victory over Real Salt Lake. Real are still waiting for their first US Open Cup road victory over anybody.
Benny Feilhaber had a goal and an assist, closing within one of Sporting Kansas City's single-season all-competitions record in the latter category, and Sporting came back from an early 1-0 deficit for a 3-1 victory in Wednesday night's semifinal.
Feilhaber now has a goal or assist in six straight matches across all competitions, and his 17 assists – five of those in Open Cup play, yet another club record – are one short of Preki's mark of 18 from 2003.
Soni Mustivar and Krisztian Nemeth also scored for Sporting, who will travel to Philadelphia to face the Union in the title game on Sept. 30. It is Sporting's third Open Cup final, albeit the first away from home – and they won the other two, in 2004 and 2012.
The victory also gave manager Peter Vermes his 109th victory across all competitions, breaking the record set by Bob Gansler from 1999-2006, after Sporting went 0-2-1 against Real in MLS competition this year.
Sporting's late scoring burst overcame a spectacular performance from RSL keeper Nick Rimando, who made eight saves before Feilhaber delivered the match-winner in the 80th minute to drop Salt Lake to 0-8-1 in road Cup games and 0-6-1 against MLS teams in the competition. (The Claret-and-Cobalt did outlast San Jose on penalties in 2010, after a draw through 120 minutes.)
Real had to play shorthanded through most of second-half stoppage time, after Olmes Garcia – their early goalscorer – drew a straight red card for a bad foul on Feilhaber.
Sporting threatened hard in the 10th minute, when Dom Dwyer whipped a header toward the lower left corner of the goal off Feilhaber's free kick, but Rimando made a diving stop at the line. Fifteen minutes later, RSL snapped a 264-minute scoreless streak at Sporting Park, dating back to the 2013 MLS Cup final – won by Sporting on penalties after a 1-1 draw.
That lead lasted only until the 35th minute, when Mustivar opened his scoring account with Sporting. After Aaron Maund brought down Nemeth deep on the left side of RSL's defensive third, Feilhaber sent in the resulting free kick and the Haitian midfielder nodded home the equalizer.
Nemeth came within inches of putting Sporting up 2-0 in the 49th minute when he chipped the ball past Rimando toward an empty net, but Nemeth didn't get enough on his shot and Beltran slid to make a desperate clearance off the line just before the ball could roll inside the right post.
Rimando came up big for the visitors on both sides of the hour mark, though, diving to his left to stop Feilhaber's dipping free kick in the 60th minute and parrying away Dwyer's dangerous blast from short range in the 63rd.
There was nothing he could do in the 80th, though, after Dwyer blasted a shot off the left post and the ball fell to an onrushing Feilhaber. He buried the rebound for the match-winner, and Nemeth iced it in the 85th minute.
Feilhaber sent a long ball out of the back that barely ticked off Maund's head and fell to Nemeth, who made a weaving run through the box and scored to seal Kansas City's second straight comeback win in Cup competition.
Feilhaber was initially credited with an assist on the play, which would have tied the record, but replays showed Maund's slight deflection of the ball.
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.