For the fifth time, FC Dallas traveled to Kansas City to take on SKC in the US Open Cup and, for the fifth time, found themselves on the wrong end of the scoreline, falling 2-1 in extra time.

It is a matchup that just seems to be destined for the US Open Cup: Sporting KC vs. FC Dallas, two rebranded MLS originals playing in soccer’s oldest competition in the US (but, somehow, always in Kansas City!). Unfortunately for the Burn, SKC always seems to come out on top.

This wasn’t quite the absolutely madcap game that some of these clubs’ previous matchups have given us. Still, it had its fair share of strangeness, led off by the fact that they had just played 3 days earlier in an MLS matchup that featured a late SKC red card caused by Paul Arriola launching a throw-in off Zorhan Bassong’s head.

With that recent history in mind, the expectation was that this might be a feisty affair, but the game started off quite nervy and cagey, with neither side looking comfortable or willing to throw numbers forward into attack.

Both teams, after resting key players in Sunday’s MLS matchup, started their best elevens.

The first half was especially cagey and tense. SKC generated what was the best chance of the half when Willy Agada’s header flashed over the crossbar, but Dallas had the edge in both possession and quantity of chances, putting up 8 shots with 5 on target compared to SKC’s 5 shots with just 1 on target. At halftime, neither team likely felt particularly great about the first-half performance. Still, Dallas probably felt a bit better about what they had generated, especially with the activity of Petar Musa, Logan Farrington, and Bernie Kamungo up top.

The teams came out of the locker rooms unchanged to start the second half, and things picked up largely where they left off…for about 5 minutes. Around the 50th minute, severe thunderstorms in the area sent both teams back to the locker rooms for what would end up being an almost two-hour delay. The little rhythm and momentum in the game were completely killed by the long delay (the LAFC/New Mexico United game, which kicked off two hours after SKC and FCD, ended up finishing first). Overall, the delay probably benefitted SKC a bit. Dallas wasn’t exactly turning the screw on SKC, but they looked to have the better of things in open play.

But after the delay, the game took on a poor and stale quality, somehow even cagier and more nervous than it was before.

Outside of a couple of half chances on set pieces, the bulk of the quality chances continued to fall to SKC. Bernie Kamungo had a tremendous opportunity to put the Burn up in the 73rd minute when his shot flashed just wide of Tim Melia’s goal. Four minutes later, a breakdown in the Dallas defense allowed Jake Davis to cut a ball back and find Agada in great scoring position, and his low shot beat a helpless Maarten Paes.

With Dallas’ injury situation and relatively attacking lineup, Peter Luccin didn’t have a ton of attacking options to throw on the field to chase the game, but he worked with what he had, and Eugene Ansah and Herbert Endeley replaced Farrington and Tsiki Ntsabeleng in the 82nd minute. There are a number of things that can be said about this 2024 FC Dallas team, but it certainly can’t be said they don’t fight until the last moment. In the 87th minute, a lovely bit of play saw Endeley find Arriola, who found Asier Illarramendi (more on him in a bit) in a surprising amount of space. Illarra was able to slip a ball into the suddenly freed-up Petar Musa, who, unsurprisingly, finished brilliantly to beat Melia and tie the game at 1-1.

Unsurprisingly, extra time was upon us, and neither team was able to muster much in the last few minutes of regulation. Peter Vermes held his substitutions until extra time started, and the contrast in what he was able to bring on in terms of quality versus what Luccin was able to do was stark, with Memo Rodriguez, SKC’s leading assist man in 2024, and Alan Pulido coming onto the field. They didn’t have an immediate impact, though; in fact, no one had much of an impact in the first half of extra time, as the two teams only managed a single shot between them in those first 15 minutes.

But right at the start of the second half of extra time, Dallas had their chance. It was always going to come at some point, as it always does in these kinds of games, though it didn’t exactly come in a suspected way. Eugene Ansah swung in a cross that completely fooled Tim Melia as the ball glanced off the crossbar, narrowly missing going straight in. The rebound bounced enticingly in the box, but Sebastian Lletget wasn’t able to really get a quality shot off, and the chance came and went.

That was probably the moment when every FCD fan watching the game knew that something bad was coming.

And sure enough, in the 111th minute, an SKC corner swung by Johnny Russell (of course), found the head of Colombian center back Dany Rosero, who outmuscled Marco Farfan to get to the ball, leaving Paes rooted to his spot in the goal. 2-1 SKC.

Dallas, as they’ve done throughout Luccin’s tenure, didn’t quit, though; they pushed forward in disjointed fashion but, of course, in stoppage time of the second half of extra time, they got one final chance to level the game and send the match to penalty kicks. A hopeful ball was lofted into the penalty area, and it bounced around and fell to Sebastian Lletget, who just couldn’t get a strong enough shot off to beat Tim Melia. But Melia’s parry fell beautifully to Paul Arriola running onto the shot. Still, a brilliant block from the SKC defense kept Arriola off the board, and SKC was able to clear the lines and complete the heartbreak for Dallas almost 5 hours after they originally kicked off.

It was a devastating result, with one of the only real hopes left for a trophy in 2024 squashed. But, on the whole, it wasn’t a complete disaster. Dallas showed far more teeth in the attack on the road than they have in basically any other road game in 2024. There were no really poor performers. Bernard Kamungo certainly would like to have some opportunities back, but the general connections between the forwards and the forward and midfield connections were solid. Sebastian Lletget continues to perform strongly, and the backline largely prevented SKC from creating any major chances over the 120 minutes. Petar Musa notched his 12th goal in all competitions and is shaping up to be worth every penny of the roughly $10 million transfer fee Dallas paid. The kids are getting more trust and time (and will be due for some big minutes in Saturday’s match against the Galaxy).

And then there’s Asier Illarramendi. In a season that isn’t looking like much, he is a standout highlight of the season. What a fantastically talented player Dallas managed the sign, possibly the best the club has ever fielded in terms of technical ability and the mental side of the game. And even at 34 years old, he covers an immense amount of ground and puts in tons of work on both sides of the ball. I lost track of the number of SKC attacks and movements he snuffed out with his positioning and work rate, and he delivered an assist on Musa’s goal as well. If there’s one single silver lining of this season, it is the opportunity to watch a truly top-class player turn out for the Burn week in and week out.

As for the rest of the season, the hope has to be that this isn’t too devastating of a blow mentally. There are, generally speaking, positive trends and positive signs from these 7 games under Peter Luccin. The team is far more willing to attack and play with some creativity and flair; road games no longer feel like the first priority is to keep the opposition off the scoreboard.

The integration of young players feels like a step in the right direction to get this club back to its ethos of being focused on “building from within.” There is lots of work to be done in terms of the roster, but hopefully, they can continue these positive trends and give fans something to cheer for in the remaining months of the season.

How are you feeling after last night’s US Open Cup loss? 


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