Category Archives: Sporting Kansas City

Sporting Kansas City

Sporting KC turning things around following 3-0 shutout in Vancouver

Official Sporting KC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

After suffering a tough first half of the season, Sporting Kansas City is finally turning things around in back-to-back shutouts.

It seems the only thing the club will have to claim at customs (as they return home) is three points they earned in a 3-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps on the road Saturday night at BC Place.

Gerso Fernandes helped lift Sporting KC to their second straight win by playing a part in all three goals, having scored two of them himself.

For the first time this season, Peter Vermes fielded the same starting XI he used in the 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire last weekend; giving the backline of Graham Zusi, Matt Besler, Botond Barath, and Seth Sinovic their fourth clean sheet in five regular-season matches as a defensive unit.

Tim Melia returned to peak performance after recording six saves to earn his 58th win this season – surpassing the record of Jimmy Nielsen and becoming the new all-time leader in wins since joining the club in 2015.

Controlling over 60% possession throughout the match, Sporting KC pressured Vancouver’s defense before finding the opening goal in the 24th minute.

With Sporting KC in search of a second goal and Vancouver looking to level the match, both sides created chances just before the half. The visitors came close to doubling the lead in the 39th minute as Yohan Croizet’s volley was re-directed by Salloi and went straight to MacMath at close range.

Melia came up huge to turn away Inbeom Hwang’s free kick in the 48th minute. Moments later, 19-year-old Homegrown forward Theo Bair‘s shot misses narrowly wide of the post.

Sporting KC kicked it into high gear after the restart. Felipe Gutierrez wasted no time and immediately doubled the lead with a strike from the top of the box; sneaking it in past MacMath in the 56th minute.

The boys continued the fight to close out the game on a good note, something they had struggled with all season-long. The Whitecaps came close to pulling one back in the 76th minute. But Yordy Reyna’s free-kick ricocheted off the post. Sporting KC went on to threaten for a third goal for the duration of the second half; forcing MacMath to make double saves.

Sporting KC subbed in Johnny Russell for the final moments of the match. And right away, the Scottish forward linked up with his Hungarian teammate, playing the ball to Krisztian Nemeth, who cut it back to Fernandes and he squeezes it through for the game-winner – securing all three points.

With two straight wins and only four players on a once injury-riddled roster, Sporting KC sets their sights on getting back above the line for playoffs.

During the post-match interviews, Melia explained:

“Baby steps, right? We’re just trying to build into our better performances. Getting guys back – being able to bring [Johnny Russell] off the bench, someone who is as explosive as him. I mean, right now things are moving in the right direction.”

Sitting in ninth place with 25 points in a tight race in the Western Conference standings, the club will host FC Dallas who sits just above the line with a four-point difference on Saturday, July 20.

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Sporting KC drops midweek fixture to LA Galaxy 2-0

Official Sporting KC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Despite coming off a hot win over the Seattle Sounders this past weekend, Sporting Kansas City fell to the LA Galaxy in a dismal 2-0 loss at Children’s Mercy Park.

The midweek fixture was a chance to regain a rhythm and some points. But as the script goes, Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s goal and assist and missed chances for the home side would help lead the Galaxy to victory – the first time they have won at CMP since 2007.

Navigating a stressful three-game week, Peter Vermes was able to fill a bench to capacity for the first time as the injury list continues to shrink. And Jimmy Medranda was removed from the list completely.

A rested center back Andreu Fontas, a former teammate of Zlatan, stepped in for the captain – who started on the bench. Johnny Russell was back after his heroic hat-trick and Fontas returned to the starting XI.

Their only real challenge was missing Krisztian Nemeth again since the league added an extra suspension for the Hungarian on Monday.

So what went wrong?

“I think we missed too many really good chances in the game,” Peter Vermes told the press.

Both sides kicked off the match with sloppy plays, incomplete passes, and misdirection of the ball. Fortunately, the home side soon regained solid possession around the 10th minute.

Tim Melia was called into action in the 24th minute, when the keeper made a diving save after Dave Romney connected powerfully with Sebastian Lletget’s header and smothered the ball amidst a crowded box to keep the game scoreless.

Gutierrez and Rowe nearly combined for the breakthrough just before the half, but David Bingham raced off his line and swiped the ball away for a corner kick that he later defended successfully.

Sporting were then prompted to make a halftime substitution as Besler replaced Botond Barath, who exited with tightness in his leg. No updates on his condition are known yet.

Ten minutes after the restart, Perry Kitchen sent a long pass to Zlatan at the far post, who directed the ball to Favio Alvarez – with the nice finish as he found a pocket of space and tucked away the goal.

Melia came up huge to deny Zlatan in a 1v1 situation in the 69th minute.

Zlatan, who just returned from a two-game suspension, got his revenge from the 1v1 standoff in the 86th minute and scored the game-winner for the visitors late into the second half.

The remainder of the match saw Sporting KC desperately trying to score a goal. Including a chance from the pair of Graham Zusi and Daniel Salloi. But Bingham kept punching them away to preserve the Galaxy’s 2-0 win.

Sporting KC will start a pivotal four-game road streak as they travel to Houston to face the Houston Dynamos on Saturday, June 1.

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Johnny Russell’s historical hat trick helps Sporting KC break winless streak

Official Sporting KC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Sporting Kansas City finally snapped it’s seven-game winless streak in a thrilling 3-2 win over the Seattle Sounders at Children’s Mercy Park on Sunday. Johnny Russell’s hat trick and Tim Melia’s cat-like reflexes sealed the deal.

Even though ten players remain on the injury list, with five totally out, the list is finally shrinking as Vermes nearly sat a full bench. Yohan Croizet started in Krisztian Nemeth’s place, who was out due to a red he picked up in the match against the Vancouver Whitecaps last weekend. And Jimmy Medranda made his triumphant return.

Sporting KC got off to a strong start, attacking the visitor’s side twice, but Stefan Frei was quick to deny both attempts.

Nicolas Hasler provided the spark the team needed for the opening goal by keeping the ball in play in the 29th minute. He slotted it through to Croizet who defeated the defender to find Russell. And Johnny smashed it home!

The team has clearly put a lot of trust in Kelyn Rowe as they helped place him into 1v1 situations. However, all attempts were either denied by Frei or flew over the bar.

Luckily, Russell completely dismantled the Sounders’ defense to double Sporting KC’s lead just before the half.

Shortly after the restart, Raul Ruidiaz pulled one back for the visitors putting the score up 2-1.

Croizet kept it away from the defender, passing it to Kelyn Rowe who sent a cross to Russell in the penalty area. Without hesitation, Russell flicked it into the back of the net, scoring the hat trick in the 68th minute. He is the second player in club history to score two hat tricks. And a bonus fact, his second hat trick came on the same day that Eddie Johnson scored his second hat trick for the club.

However, the celebrations were cut short. Seattle’s Kelvin Leerdam quickly answered Russell’s goal by putting in a header off of a set piece, going straight through SKC’s defense.

With the score now 3-2, Sporting KC went into full gear to protect the goal at any cost. Even seeing an injured captain, who kept grabbing his hamstring for a better part of the half, fight through the pain to help his team. Unfortunately, Besler would call it quits in the 79th minute because of fatigue. Graham Smith would take this place.

But his exit didn’t displace SKC as Melia went on to make a stunning double-save and was later called back into action to deny a Sounder from close range.

Jimmy Medranda, who entered to a standing ovation from the crowd; after spending nearly a year and a half out due to injury, wasted little time to fire a rocket shot at the goal, but it deflected off the post.

A last-minute attempt saw Frei step out to the half to assist his teammates. But it would fail as the ball flew wide of the goal – ending the match in a much needed 3-2 victory for Sporting KC.

Sporting KC will have a quick turnaround as they host the LA Galaxy on Wednesday, May 29.

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Sporting KC falls in tough 1-0 loss on the road

Official Sporting KC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Sporting Kansas City fell to D.C. United in a steep 1-0 loss on a rainy afternoon at Audi Field on Sunday night.

The injury list continues to grow with Graham Zusi now joining the ranks due to an oblique injury. Although both veterans (Matt Besler and Zusi) were listed as questionable, neither one appeared in the eighteen – giving Ilie Sanchez the opportunity to wear the captain’s band for the first time. The match also marked Seth Sinovic‘s 200th career MLS start. As well, introduced an old friend back to the lineup, Benny Feilhaber.

English captain Wayne Rooney was the first to test Tim Melia in the 14th minute – when he fired a strike from 25 yards out. Fortunately, the 31-year-old keeper made a full-stretch save to punch the ball away from the danger. Melia would go on to make a total of three saves.

Given ten players were out due to injury and only four players, including the goalkeeper, available on the bench, Sporting KC did well to hold the host scoreless into the second half.

Paul Arriola would finally break the goalless drought in the 78th minute when Wayne Rooney passed a perfect ball to Arriola, who then tucked it in the net by mere inches.

The goal gave the visitors an energy boost as they went on to create two solid opportunities in the final twelve minutes. But it wouldn’t be enough. Krisztian Nemeth instantly received a chance to equalize when he jumped on a giveaway and carried the ball toward goal, but his near-post shot goes wide.

A final chance at redemption saw late-half substitute Kelyn Rowe curl in a ball into a crowded box to find Graham Smith, but his header goes wide ending the match in a 1-0 loss.

Sporting KC’s winless skid continues. Now the club will have a three-game stretch at home, so hopefully, they can pick up some points at CMP before heading on the road for four-straight matches. First up, the club will host the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday, May 18.

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Sporting KC falls to Atlanta United 3-0

Official Sporting KC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Sporting Kansas City fell to Atlanta United 3-0; snapping their home unbeaten run on Sunday night at Children’s Mercy Park. It was the first time the home team lost to the reigning MLS Cup Champions.

With multiple injuries plaguing the roster – and missing key starters like Matt Besler and Roger Espinoza – Vermes fielded an almost unrecognizable lineup with only five subs available on the bench. Two of which earned their first MLS starts – Graham Smith and Gedion Zelalem (made his club debut). Kelyn Rowe and Botond Barath returned to the starting XI.

Sporting KC kicked off the match with a good opportunity when Graham Zusi unleashed a long-range curler that carried marginally beyond the right-hand post. Shortly thereafter, Atlanta’s Pity Martinez cut centrally onto his left foot and dragged a low shot wide of the near post.

The home side would earn another chance after Krisztian Nemeth could have recorded his 11th off a corner kick by Johnny Russell in the 13th minute, but his glancing header on the edge of the six-yard box missed the mark.

And then it stopped?

With both sides holding close to equal possession and overall passing accuracy, it seemed they locked in a game of keep away, as they passed the ball back-and-forth without creating any solid chances for a full 15 minutes.

*Writer’s note: I’m not suggesting no one was trying to create an opportunity, I just found the situation odd.

Just as it appeared the match would go scoreless into halftime, Josef Martinez opened the scoring for Atlanta in the 39th minute after retrieving the rebound off of Tim Melia at short range. Martinez went down briefly after a collision with the keeper. But he returned to the pitch uninjured to score the game winner in the 76th minute.

Two minutes after the restart, Atlanta doubled the lead. Sporting failed to clear a loose ball at the top of the penalty area and a shot fell invitingly to Ezequiel Barco, who made right-footed strike down the middle into the left side of the post.

Melia did well to deny the 20-year-old nine minutes later, then produced another reflex stop on a strike from Miles Robinson.

Down by two, Sporting KC ran the ball down to try to close the gap and earned two solid opportunities in the process. But as the script goes, Kelyn Rowe’s thunderous effort from the top of the box was blocked and Nemeth’s 22-yard curler skimmed over the woodwork.

In the 65th minute, the energy changed as Ilie entered the match in a double substitution.

Ilie did not appear once in training this past week and he was listed as questionable. So it’s understandable the predicament Vermes was forced into. And one he will probably see himself again:

“The problem is I don’t have the whole team available. It’s not just one guy. When you have a team – and every team has their starters – to then have to supplant all those guys with new players, it’s very hard.”

Regardless, the Spaniard still had a solid attempt shortly after Russell cuts into the middle and forces Guzan into a leaping save with a left-footed curler that bounced off the top corner in the 73rd minute. But the striker couldn’t put his strike within the frame.

Ultimately, it was Martinez’s second goal that gave Sporting KC their first loss of the season at home in a 3-0 deficit.

Even though frustration filled the locker room, the team remains optimistic about the future. Especially with the newcomers earning more playing opportunities:

“I thought the two center backs did a really good job. It’s a quality team with a lot of attacking minded players that are really good at combining and for the most part, till maybe the 70th minute we did a really good job shutting [Atlanta] down.” Melia told the press.

Seth Sinovic added: “I think everyone had their moments. I think everybody got the opportunity to improve, not just the new guys but the experienced guys. And it’s on the experience guys that have not only played a lot of games in the league but a lot of games in a sporting uniform – we have to be better leaders. We got to do a better job and we’re not filling that job right now.”

Next up, Sporting KC will travel to Audi Field to face Wayne Rooney and D.C. United for the first time.

“We have to concentrate on our first day back at training. Making sure we’re doing everything there [..] we build them correctly for the game against [D.C. United],” said Melia. “We just got to get back to being us. And look at one game at a time.”

Featured image: Peaty Romano

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Sporting Kansas City faces a rocky journey as injuries continues to rise

Official Sporting KC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Slow starts and multiple injuries plague the club. But can Sporting Kansas City bounce back before it’s too late?

Sporting KC is currently in eighth place in the Western Conference standings, under Real Salt Lake – who fell to the LA Galaxy this past weekend. Even though they are undefeated at home, the defense is suffering due to multiple injuries. A list that is still dangerously growing.

The club confirmed on Wednesday morning, Gerso Fernandes underwent surgery for a broken wrist – now joining a long list of injuries:

  • Matt Belser (hamstring strain)
  • Roger Espinoza (PCL sprain)
  • Rodney Wallace (hip)
  • Jaylin Lindsey (torn meniscus)
  • Jimmy Medranda (knee)
  • Erik Hurtado (knee)

Only Besler is expected to return within the next month. Jimmy Medranda is set to return in June or July after a lengthy absence. This week he returned to training as a “neutral player,” which Manager Peter Vermes called: a step in the right direction.

The injuries are also affecting training as Tuesday’s training session was canceled due to a limited amount of players available – nine players were out. “This is the most guys we’ve ever had out,” Vermes told the press.

Midfielder Ilie Sanchez echoed similar frustrations:

“That’s unlucky for us. We are struggling in that area. […] Because fútbol is a contact sport. You are constantly getting hit [and] in pain. Most of those injured are coming from that contact against the opponent. This will change and we will get better. We will get players recovered, so that will help the team to have better dynamics.”

Although Sporting Kansas City is not the only MLS team to participate in the Concacaf Champions League this year, I was still wary of the effects it could have on the roster in the long run. The team had a great run in the CCL but it clearly came with a cost.

But it’s not over, yet. Even though we would normally see these type of injuries during the mid-season, it’s still early in the season for Sporting KC to turn things around.

Can we get players from the USL side, Swope Park Rangers? Technically, yes.

When asked about the possibility, Vermes explained:

“The problem is, the mechanisms are not in our favor. So we have to drop below fourteen available players before we can actually pull a player from the Swope Park Rangers for a short term loan. So it’s a catch 22, you don’t want to be in that place but then again – maybe you do, because you need the players.”

Though it is important to note that Vermes hope we’re “returning players” to avoid that situation.

The team will most likely have to rely on Daniel Salloi – who has been doing well at training. Along with Johnny Russell, Kristztián Nemeth, Graham Zusi, etc. while their teammates recover. Plus, Gianluca Busio and Tyler Freeman are with the United States U-17s.

Sporting KC is set to host reigning MLS Cup Champions Atlanta United on Sunday, May 5. And looking forward, the players are staying optimistic.

“It’s mental and hopefully that throughout this week, we look back and see the things we have – obviously with the injuries. And the fact that we do need to jell together as a team in different positions. Hopefully, this week we’ll determine that,” Kelyn Rowe stated.

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Busio secures 2-2 Draw for Sporting KC against New York Red Bulls

Official Sporting KC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Just three days after being eliminated from the 2019 Concacaf Champions League in a semifinal defeat to Monterrey, Sporting Kansas City returned to MLS action. And their return did not go as expected as they earned a 2-2 draw against the New York Red Bulls on Sunday night at Children’s Mercy Park.

New York had entered Sunday with a three-game losing streak and successfully avoided a fourth straight defeat thanks to improved performance in the second half. It was the first time Sporting KC hosted their East Coast rivals since the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final.

On the brink of falling below the line in the standings, Sporting KC displayed a sense of urgency after Gerso Fernandes created instant danger for the visitors after going down to the left side to send in a cross. Five minutes later, Felipe Gutierrez forced a diving save from Luis Robles.

Johnny Russell came close to earning the early goal in the 10th minute after dismantling the Red Bulls’ defense however his close-range shot missed the net by mere inches. Moments later, the Scotsman notched the game opener with a low strike in the 24th minute; scoring his fourth goal this season.

Sporting KC led the match 1-0 into halftime. But it wouldn’t take long for New York to flip the script and level the match. Shortly after the restart, Daniel Royer broke through SKC’s defense and got around Tim Melia for the equalizer.

Brian White doubled the Red Bulls’ lead in the 75th minute with a diving header – following a sequence of plays from Kaku and Aaron Long.

Is Gianluca Busio Sporting KC’s new secret weapon? Maybe.

Fresh off the bench, the 16-year-old struck the equalizer past Robles to secure the draw for the home side in the 88th minute, as he did in Cincinnati last weekend. Graham Zusi’s low drive through a crowded penalty area reached the young Sporting KC Academy product, who coolly steered the ball home from close range to record his fourth career MLS goal.

During the final minutes of stoppage time, a mass confrontation broke out after Red Bulls’ Kaku sent a strike into the stands at point-blank range. This act caused the home side to jump to the fan’s defense, invoking a two squad square off.

*Watch the full clip here

Kaku was ultimately shown a red for violent conduct and ejected from the match. Sibiga then issued cautions to Luis Robles and Krisztian Nemeth for unsporting behavior in the brawl. Following the final whistle, players from both sides greeted the fan and to see if he was doing well.

Fight club antics aside, after facing three consecutive teams from the Eastern Conference – Sporting KC will return to the road in the West when they travel to San Jose to face the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday, April 20.

Featured image: Araceli Villanueva

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Sporting KC secures 1-1 draw on the road in Cincinnati

Official Sporting KC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Sporting Kansas City earns a hard-fought point on the road in a 1-1 draw against FC Cincinnati on Sunday afternoon at Nippert Stadium. The 16-year-old, Gianluca Busio scored the equalizer; becoming the youngest player in MLS history to score in back-to-back matches.

Manager Peter Vermes mixed things up when he drastically changed the lineup for the first time this season. With more than half of the regular starters missing, Sunday’s match introduced Adrian Zendejas, Nicolas Hasler, Rodney Wallace, and Gedion Zalem; all of whom made their club debuts.

Zendejas was quickly called into action just seconds after kickoff when Kenny Saief struck in a shot off of a low cross from Allan Cruz. But his attempt was blocked by the 23-year-old keeper. Yohan Croizet, who made his first start as a central forward, was quick to reply but was denied by Spencer Richey.

The 17th minute was nothing short of dramatic. Roland Lamah was fouled by Ilie Sanchez who brought him down following a miscue from Zendejas. After the play underwent review, the caution was mistakenly given to Ilie and instead shown to Andreu Fontas. A penalty was awarded to FC Cincinnati. Darren Mattocks stepped up and covered the first penalty in FCC’s history.

Fortunately, the Chula Vista native managed to disband Mattocks’ attempt to double the lead in the 27th minute.

Although it was clear from the start the heavy rotation was taking a toll on some players – the squad still created a few dangerous chances. For example, Kelyn Rowe and Busio proved to be a good tag team, as the duo produced two huge chances. The first came in the 33rd minute after Busio helped direct the ball to Rowe, but he hit it over the post. The second chance resulted in the equalizer.

SKC would get another huge opportunity to tie things up before the half in the 37th minute when Johnny Russell curled a shot into the back of the net, but his goal was called offsides.

Kelyn Rowe sent a long shot to Busio who ran the equalizer home into an open net in the 63rd minute. A miscommunication between Greg Garza and Richey would give the 16-year-old his second goal of the campaign.

The remainder of the second half saw SKC get chance after chance, but all opportunities would either go wide of the post or were saved by Spencer Richey. The second half also included regular starters, like Krisztian Nemeth, who entered the match for Croizet in the 70th minute.

Now sitting in seventh place in the Western Conference, Sporting KC will switch gears once again as they host C.F. Monterrey for the second leg of the Concacaf semifinals on Thursday, April 11.

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Sporting KC dominates in 2-0 home opener victory

Official Sporting KC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Sporting Kansas City finally kicked off the regular season at home with a 2-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union to an electric crowd at Children’s Mercy Park on Sunday.

After dropping the MLS season opener in Los Angeles and the first leg in Panama for the Concacaf Champions League Quarterfinals, Sporting KC switched gears and returned to Kansas City.

Missing Roger Espinoza due to red card suspension and Andreu Fontás to an injury – a reshuffled lineup introduced 16-year-old, Gianluca Busio, the youngest MLS starter in Children’s Mercy Park history.

Busio wasted little time proving his starting role, drawing a penalty kick in the ninth minute after Johnny Russell and Krisztian Nemeth exchanged passes in the penalty area. In a scramble to win the ball, the Union’s Auston Trusty tripped Busio from behind, and referee Chris Penso immediately called the foul. Ilie Sanchez stepped up and converted the penalty kick to give the home side the early lead.

Moments later, the Union would have a chance to equalize after Seth Sinovic was called for handball infraction inside the box, but as luck would have it – goalkeeper Tim Melia was a game changer as he dove low to push away Marco Fabian’s attempt, securing Sporting KC’s 1-0 lead into the half. Melia earned his eighth penalty kick save since joining the club in 2015, surpassing his former mentor; Nick Rimando’s record of five penalty kick saves.

The Union was reduced to 10 men after Fabian received a straight red card in the 60th minute. Graham Zusi sent a thunderous strike to see it miss the goal by inches and bounce off the post. Minutes later, Melia was called back into action catching the ball mid-air off a header by Cory Burke.

The 16-year-old midfielder earned a chance to score his first MLS goal in the 77th minute; after Ilie sent a pass over the top falling to Busio, who then try to run the ball into an open net but was denied by a last-minute save by Trusty.

Own goals. We love own goals.

In the 80th minute, Kelyn Rowe sent a pass to Gerso Fernandes but Philadelphia’s Jack Elliott intercepted the play; and instead of clearing out the danger, Elliott kicked the ball past Blake doubling Sporting’s lead 2-0. Even though it technically wasn’t counted as an assist for Rowe, we’ll make an exception.

The last ten minutes saw both sides exchange passes until the final whistle awarding Sporting KC a 2-0 shutout and three points.

Sporting KC will prepare to host Panamanian side Independent in the decisive second leg of the Concacaf Champions League Quarterfinals; before going back on the road to face the Colorado Rapids on Sunday, March 17.

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Sporting KC’s Historical Start to 2019: Champions League Review

Official Sporting Kansas City Reporter

Sporting Kansas City opened up the 2019 season with a historic 3-0 victory on Liga MX’s Deportivo Toluca FC last Thursday night in the first leg of the 2019 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Round of 16.

Krisztian Nemeth, Gerso Fernandes and Ilie Sanchez delivered all three winning goals – making Sporting KC the second MLS team to defeat a Mexican club by three goals in CCL history.

Sporting KC has spent the last few days training in Albuquerque, New Mexico to get acclimated to the altitude before traveling to Toluca, Mexico for the decisive second leg on Thursday, February 28. Kickoff is slated for 9 p.m. CT at Estadio Nemesio Diez.

Admittedly, I was a little hesitant with the idea of Sporting KC advancing in the tournament considering the 2019 MLS season begins next weekend. But after seeing what Sporting KC accomplished Thursday night – I feel this team can handle a busy schedule balancing the CCL while trying to stay atop the Western Conference.

On a chilly evening in Children’s Mercy Park, it seemed Toluca would take the early lead. In the fourth minute, Luis Mendoza barreled down the left flank and cut centrally on the edge of the box, only to see his curler go beyond the left-hand post.

The home side would continue to dominate the game from then on, deflating Toluca’s defense with every chance they got. Vermes’ men finally drew first blood in the 35th minute when Nemeth fired a low shot past Alfredo Talavera – ringing in the first goal of 2019 with remarkable fashion.

Nemeth would get a second chance to double the score just three minutes after the restart but he would see his chance go over the bar. Toluca then came close to leveling the match in the 50th minute – with Emmanuel Gigliotti’s close-range side volley flying over the net.

Gerso doubled the score just two minutes after sending a rocket straight into the corner.

Seth Sinovic was phenomenal in defense and ran consistent plays leaving Toluca’s defenders in the dust. Even though, Sinovic would eventually run out of steam; in the 72nd minute, Ilie sealed the deal with a jaw-dropping volley from 20 yards out.

Sporting KC sought out a fourth goal for the duration of the match while managing to keep Toluca out of the danger zone. With the help of newcomers Kelyn Rowe and Erik Hurtado – who made their official club debuts late in the half – the home side secured the 3-0 advantage for the second leg this week.

All Sporting KC needs to do is score a fourth goal or hold Toluca to a scoreless draw. Should Toluca win 3-0 to level the aggregate at 3-3, the match will go straight to penalties and 30 minutes of extra time will not be played.

With roster changes in hand, the only thing Sporting KC would have to worry about is Toluca’s new manager. Earlier this week, Toluca club legend Hernan Cristante was replaced by interim boss Jose Luis Real. Toluca is currently on a seven-game winless streak.

“I think it’s going to be great. We’re still in that preseason mode because this was our first game. We obviously did everything we could for the first game. And obviously, it worked out for us. We played very well but now it’s on to the next one. I think there’s a few things we can tidy up. And we’re going to train in New Mexico, train at altitude and make sure we’re ready for this game in Toluca,” Rowe said.

Featured image: Araceli Villanueva

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