US Open Cup final player ratings: An unlikely star rises for Sporting KC

Sporting KC put in their usual solid all-around performance to raise the US Open Cup for the fourth time with a 2-1 home triumph over the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday night.

The home side repelled pressure like champs all evening, and actually earned that title by hitting their visitors on the counter-punches that have become their hallmark. Bradley Wright-Phillips gave the Red Bulls hope with a late strike, but it was too little and too late against Peter Vermes' worthy winners.

SPORTING KC

Tim Melia (7) - The Sporting KC netminder came up with an important early save, and ended up with a half-dozen. Melia also controlled his area with an array of punches and rushes off the line. On the down side, he uncharacteristically coughed up a fat rebound to tee up the Red Bulls' stoppage-time consolation strike.

Graham Zusi (6.5) - The US international rarely got forward to effect, but made his best foray count with a pinpoint cross for the KC opener. Zusi had almost nothing to do defensively for the opening half hour, but was solid in that department after that.

Ike Opara (7) - The lanky center back turned away all comers for most of the night. Opara was especially forbidding when the visitors turned up the heat after intermission. However, he was perhaps fortunate to only see yellow for a stoppage time foul after losing Wright-Phillips on a long ball and put his side under duress with a couple of bad giveaways.

Matt Besler (8) - Crossing was futile for the Red Bulls on this night, mainly because Besler ruled the air around the KC box. Among his 19 defensive stops, the Sporting skipper piled up a dozen clearances. For good measure, he also coolly squashed a few fast breaks. 

Seth Sinovic (6) - After the opening quarter-hour, the left back's passing game fell off considerably. He was, however, solid in defense.

Ilie Sanchez (7) - Though he was caught watching a bit on the Red Bulls strike, Sanchez spent much of the night ably guarding the gate and working the home team out of trouble with deft moves up the middle.

Roger Espinoza (7) - Like his midfield partner, the Honduras ace pitched in with several key interventions and pressure valve plays. Espinoza also supported the attack well. 

Benny Feilhaber (7) - The Sporting KC playmaker spent much of the game expertly feeding the flank, but his best pass came when he fanned out wide to create Daniel Salloi's stand-up winner.

Gerso Fernandes (6) - Before leaving near the hour with a knock, the winger certainly pulled the teeth out of a couple of great rushes with bad touches. On the other hand, Gerso's wheels released pressure at some key moments.

Latif Blessing (8.5) - Despite playing less than a half, the youngster was the clear standout, and not just for rising among the trees to nod home the opener. Blessing also repeatedly unnerved the Red Bulls defense with his pace, shrewdly released Gerso for a breakaway and tracked back to make several stops in his own end.

Diego Rubio (5) - Early on, his ideas and physicality (if not also his histrionics after winning a free kick) annoyed the visitors' defense. He largely faded from view after Sporting grabbed the lead.

Coach Peter Vermes (8) - It was yet another "get 'er done" performance in a final. Ho-hum, right? Not in the least. Vermes' selection and system works, especially at home. His boys forced the Red Bulls to make rushed decisions, cleared trouble away from the back by escaping through their midfield trio and spread the game out for their pacy wingers.

Subs:

Daniel Salloi (7.5) - The late-first-half sub all but picked up where Blessing left off. Salloi also wiggled past defenders to break pressure and finished with a takedown touch for the official match-winner.

Jimmy Medranda (7) - The handyman looked extremely lively over the final 34 minutes. Medranda dribbled away from his own half and sparked counters every chance he got. 

Kevin Oliveira (-) - A mere cameo.

NEW YORK RED BULLS

Ryan Meara (6) - The Red Bulls 'keeper made a huge stop on Gerso's jailbreak and came up with a big punch from a crowd in the first half. However, Meara was caught flailing when put in a thankless position on Salloi's winner. 

Michael Murillo (4.5) - The Panama defender was extremely busy in the first half and covered a lot of ground in chalking up 12 of his 19 total defensive stops. He also typically moved the ball along safely. No one will ever remember any of that, though, because of his dead-on statue imitation when Blessing soared past for the icebreaker.

Aaron Long (5) - Long also made some stops and pushed the ball into midfield well, but he did allow Zusi's cross to glide over his head on the opener.

Fidel Escobar (4.5) - The young center back's passing was less secure than his partners. More distressingly, he almost seemed to concede Salloi's run on the decider. In a late highlight, it was Escobar's knockdown that helped set up the Red Bulls' late strike. 

Kemar Lawrence (6.5) - During his 66 minutes of work, many of the Red Bulls' best opportunities came via Lawrence runs to the corner. With Besler on patrol, his crosses never found a taker.

Felipe (5.5) - It was a hot-and-cold display for the veteran across all his duties. Felipe sparked rushes with his passing and tackles in central park, but also coughed up some bad turnovers and was left in dust on a few quick counters. 

Sean Davis (6) - The midfielder enjoyed a solid outing on the ball, with a handful of his final third serves finding a teammate. Like most of his midfield mates, he did occasionally come up short defensively.

Tyler Adams (7) - His final passes didn't always come off, but Adams was the main engine in New York's attack. The young midfielder asked numerous questions of the KC defense, and stopped the hosts' pushes into attack more than anyone else in navy and gold.

Sacha Kljestan (5.5) - It took a while for the Red Bulls' string-puller to come into the game, but he eventually offered some needed calm in the final third. That said, Kljestan never cracked the KC lock.

Alex Muyl (5) - After a very quiet opening frame, Muyl sparked attack with some positive passing after the break. He could have done a lot more to halt Sporting breaks, though. 

Bradley Wright-Phillips (6) - Yes, he pulled one back late by pouncing on a rebound. Still, Wright-Phillips wasted some good potential looks at goal with curious touches and halted runs.

Coach Jesse Marsch (5) - You can't fault a coach for individual mistakes made by defenders. Then again, there should definitely be a bad taste left from sticking with a system that entered the contest winless in five and invited the victors to do what they do best.

Subs:

Sal Zizzo (3) - Not only did the second-half sub absentmindedly allow Salloi to blow right past him for Sporting's cup-clincher, he also flat missed a golden chance to bag a late corner-kick header.

Gonzalo Veron (7) - When the striker entered the fray, the visitors immediately became more dangerous and wider in attack. Veron's shot served up the rebound for their goal.

Muhamed Keita (6) - The summer addition sure can serve a mean corner kick, but he whiffed badly on a good late chance to pull the trigger on an area shot.

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