Sporting Kansas City’s 2014-2015 CONCACAF Champions League run came to an end Thursday night with a 2-0 loss to Deportivo Saprissa at Estadio Ricardo Saprissa in San Jose, Costa Rica.
Saprissa and Sporting KC each finished the group stage with seven points, but the Costa Rican side will advance to the quarterfinal round of the tournament due to their stronger goal differential.
Sporting KC went into Thursday’s match in the driver’s seat of the group. With a win, a tie or a one-goal loss, the defending MLS Cup champions would have advanced to the knockout stages of the tournament.
The home side made things difficult early, however. Sporting KC goalkeeper Eric Kronberg was called into action in the 15th minute when Juan Bustos picked up an errant clearance and volleyed a strike to the near post. The veteran goalkeeper dove to his left and punched the ball away from goal.
With more than 20,000 fans in attendance, Saprissa struck first in the 23rd minute off a set piece. Bustos whipped in a ball that was headed toward the goal. Kronberg dropped low to block the first attempt, but Heiner Mora cleaned up the rebound to put the home side ahead.
Sporting KC’s luck turned from bad to worse moments later when 2010 World Cup veteran Benny Feilhaber and 19-year-old defender Igor Juliao were forced out of the game with injuries. Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes replaced Feilhaber and Juliao with Soony Saad and Jacob Peterson.
Despite conceding a goal and suffering two injuries, Sporting KC took a 1-0 deficit into the half, a result good enough to advance through to the next round. That score was short-lived, however. Less than a minute into the second half, Mora squared a pass to an open Ariel Rodriguez at the six-yard box. The Costa Rican international made no mistake, poking the ball past Kronberg for his fifth goal of the tournament.
Kronberg was called into action often in the second and responded well. The California native made a one-handed save on a Rodriguez shot in the 63rd minute, stopped a David Ramirez breakaway in the 64th minute and tipped a Marvin Angulo free kick over the bar in the 80th minute.
Sporting KC’s best opportunity of the night came in the 66th minute through striker Soony Saad. The Lebanon international turned a defender and curled a shot toward the far post. Goalkeeper Donny Grant made the save and held on to the ball despite an onrushing Dom Dwyer.
Sporting KC will resume MLS play Sunday night when it plays the New York Red Bulls at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan., in the last game of the 2014 MLS regular season.
The match will kick off at 7:30 p.mCT and will be broadcast on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes. Sporting KC currently sits in fourth place in the Eastern Conference and would lock up the No. 3 seed and a spot in the Eastern Conference Semifinals with a win on Sunday.
- Story from Sporting KC