Smarter, Wiser SKC Ready For Champions LeagueCampaign starts as Sporting’s biggest signing of a year ago has only scored 1 goal in 2014
by Skylar Rolstad | Monday, August 18, 2014
Sporting’s last trip out of the country was embarrassing to say the least.
Although SKC may not have known just what they were getting into against Cruz Azul in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal then — Kansas City triumphed against Cruz Azul in the home leg but were defeated 5-1 in Mexico City (5-2 agg) — Sporting certainly will now.
SKC will face a familiar foe on Tuesday in Real Esteli, who Sporting drew in last year’s CCL. Esteli earned a 1-1 draw at Sporting Park and were defeated at the hands of Dom Dwyer and Ike Opara in Nicaragua. Esteli were content to bunker in both games and Sporting again found it difficult to break their defense. The team’s characteristic strength on the road made the win in Nicaragua unsurprising.
Sporting’s trip through the group stage should be easy, but playing so far away from home makes quite a difference, especially when MLS play requires them to play games just 3 days apart from each other. In the CCL, unlike other Champions League competitions around the world, 3 teams are included in the group stage and only one team advances.
Sporting’s other opponent is the Costa Rican powerhouse Saprissa. Saprissa qualified for the tournament by winning the Costa Rican league for the 30th time in their history. They have won the CONCACAF Champions Cup, the CCL’s previous format which was in effect until 2008, on 3 occasions.
Sporting qualified this year by winning MLS Cup 2013 and will look to go even further in the competition. Sporting faced a tough opponent, the Mexican champions Cruz Azul, in the quarterfinal having been seeded 7th. Sporting’s fellow MLS participants are DC United (US Open Cup champions), New York Red Bulls (Supporter’s Shield), and Portland Timbers (Western Conference champions). Montreal Impact also qualified by winning the Canadian Championship.
SKC grabbed 3 important points in a 4-1 win against Toronto FC at Sporting Park. Sporting Park will host yet another huge Eastern Conference game when DC United comes to town on August 23rd. DC United currently has 1 game in hand on Sporting in the Supporter’s Shield race, however, Sporting KC is ahead of DC by 2 points.
NEXT UP: August 19 — CONCACAF Champions League: Real Esteli vs. Sporting Kansas City, Sporting Park, Kansas City, Kansas. 10 p.m. EST, Fox Soccer Plus.