For the first time in their history, Sporting Kansas City reached the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League. After a tough and hard battle at Children’s Mercy Park, the US team managed to eliminate the Panamanian champions Atletico Independiente. It was 3-0 for the hosts, who reached a 1-2 deficit from the first leg.
It looked almost impossible for Sporting’s players to score against Atletico last night.
Fantastic Jose Guerra was doing wonders in front of his goal. He had 10 saves throughout the match and was the sole responsible for all these troubles Sporting experienced.
“I thought the guy was like Buffon or something,” Krisztian Nemeth said. “He did a great job for sure. But we believed we could win this game.”
The hosts had to grind for 73 minutes before finding a crack in Atletico’s defense. They were in a desperate need for that one goal, which would put them ahead in the overall picture.
After losing 2-1 at the Estadio Agustin Sanches in La Chorrera, Peter Vermes boys needed a narrow 1-0 win to advance to the semis.
Still, that one score looked far away with Guerra’s performance. Sporting’s coach was very pleased with the way his team behaved in the moments when they couldn’t score even though they had complete domination of the court.
He praised his players for not surrendering in the moments of frustration.
“The great thing is we had a good mentality, we never stopped. It was a matter of finding the first goal,” Vermes commented, saying that his team deserved 10 goals in this contest. “Probably about 10 were deserved.”
He too couldn’t believe what Guerra did last night.
“Their goalkeeper, he stood on his head today,” Kansas City’s leader said after the game. “He had a lot of great saves, played very well, and I thought he made a great save on Zusi’s free kick. I think that was a big moment in the game.”
The lock was broke in the 73rd minute when Nemes reacted very well in the box, after Botond Barath’s assist.
After that is was much easier for the home team, because Atletico’s defense started to fall apart, while on the other hand, their attacks were utterly disorganized.
The guests arrived in Missouri with one thing on their mind, and that is to defend. Their coach Francisco Perlo set ultra-defensive tactics, and his team didn’t even think about going upfront and creating some trouble for the hosts.
That cost them dearly in the moments when chasing the result, as they didn’t have any guidelines on how to do it.
Roger Espinosa doubled the lead eight minutes after the opening goal, executing after a nice action.
Nemeth then scored his second of the day four minutes before the end of the regular part of the event. Gerso Fernandes made his second assist, passing a low cross to the edge of the six-yard box.
The Hungarian slid in and beat the fantastic Guerra.
Sporting Kansas City is the only team outside Mexico in the semifinals of this prestigious competition. Other three clubs are Tigres UANL, Santos Laguna and Monterrey.
The last one mentioned is the next opponent for Nemeth and the boys, with the first leg being scheduled for 3rd of April.
Monterrey eliminated the American champions, Atlanta United in the quarterfinals. After losing at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, 0-1, the Mexicans were more than confident at home, defeating United 3-0.
It is interesting that all three Mexican representatives eliminated American clubs. Tigres beat Houston Dynamo 3-0 on aggregate, while Santos Laguna was better than New York Red Bulls 6-2 on agg.
Sporting will defend the honor of the US soccer, but the chances for their advance to the finals are not that high.
Mexican clubs are dominating this competition in the last 13 years, and Monterrey was one of the best ever, winning it three consecutive times from 2013 to 2015.
Although that time is long gone, they are still one of the biggest favorites for clinching the title this season.
But surprises in soccer are often, which gives KC a right to hope.
Nikola Velickovic is a sports journalist who loves to write and read on all sports. Nikola contributes both news updates and functions as a sports breaking news writer at WagerBop.