SPORTING KC

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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

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Sporting Kansas City concludes the 2014-2015 CONCACAF Champions League group stage Thursday night in Costa Rica against Deportivo Saprissa.

The defending MLS Cup champions will advance to the knockout stage with a win or draw. Sporting KC can also advance with a one-goal loss or a two-goal loss as long as Sporting KC scores two or more goals.

Thursday’s match will kick off at 9 p.m. and will be broadcast on FOX Soccer Plus.

Sporting KC is currently in first place in CCL Group 2 with seven points through three games. Saprissa is in second place in the group with four points and Nicaraguan side Real Esteli rounds out the group with two points after four matches.

Sporting KC opened the group stage in Nicaragua marking the second consecutive year the club played Real Esteli at Estadio Independencia to begin the tournament. The match ended in a 1-1 draw on Aug. 19. Sporting KC then earned back-to-back victories at Sporting Park, a 3-1 win over Saprissa on Sept. 18 and a 3-0 result over Real Esteli on Sept. 23.

Sporting KC is the only MLS team making a second consecutive appearance in the CCL and is unbeaten in the group stage over the past two years (4-0-3).

Winger Antonio Dovale has scored a goal or tallied an assist for Sporting KC in all three CCL matches this year. Dovale is second on the club’s scoring chart with three goals in international competition, one behind Chris Brown. Meanwhile, goalkeeper Eric Kronberg has five shutouts in seven CCL appearances. His five clean sheets in competitive international matches are a club record.

Sporting KC All-Star and World Cup veteran Graham Zusi will not be available on Thursday as he serves his mandatory one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation. Saprissa defender Jordan Smith is also unavailable after receiving two cautions in his team’s first three group stage matches.

Sporting KC defenders Matt Besler, Aurelien Collin, Igor Juliao and Seth Sinovic and midfielder Paulo Nagamura are all on yellow card warning and would be suspended for a potential quarterfinal first leg match if they pick up another caution Thursday night.

The CONCACAF Champions League features the top club from across North America, Central America and the Caribbean. The winner of the tournament earns a berth in the 2015 FIFA Club World Cup. The tournament started in 1962 and was originally called the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup before switching to the current format in 2008 (and now called the CONCACAF Champions League).

Sporting KC finished atop Group 2 standdings in the 2013-2014 edition of the tournament with a 2-0-2 record before falling 5-2 on aggregate in the quarterfinals to reigning champions Cruz Azul.

Fans may follow the match online at SportingKC.com/GameOn or via Twitter @SKCGameday.
-Story from Sporting KC

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Sporting Kansas City suffered a 2-1 loss at the Philadelphia Union on Saturday at PPL Park in the team’s final road match of the 2014 regular season.

Dom Dwyer extended his single-season club record with his 22nd goal of the season sandwiched between goals from Brian Brown and Pedro Ribeiro.

With a playoff berth secured, Sporting Kansas City sits in third place in the Eastern Conference and will determine its postseason seed when fourth place New York visits Sporting Park at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 26, in the final game of the MLS regular season.

The match will be nationally televised on ESPN2.

The reigning MLS Cup champions were without eight players due to injury on Saturday, including designated players Matt Besler and Claudio Bieler. Additionally, manager Peter Vermes rested Graham Zusi after his recent return from the U.S. Men’s National Team.

Sporting KC outshot the Union in the first half on Saturday, but failed to test Zac MacMath with any of their seven attempts while the hosts put four of their six shots on target in the opening 45 minutes.

Dom Dwyer
Dom Dwyer

Dom Dwyer — looking to add to his 21-goal haul in 2014 — twice threatened, including a shot in the game’s fifth minute that carried just wide of the target.

Ten minutes later, the Englishman was behind the Union backline and took a touch around MacMath only to see his cross into the middle well covered by the recovery of Carlos Valdes.

Philadelphia came close to opening the scoring on multiple occasions before Brown’s go-ahead goal in the final moments of the first half.

Cristian Maidana and Andrew Wenger sent shots narrowly wide of net three minutes apart before Eric Kronberg made a pair of saves on Danny Cruz in the 15th minute. Kronberg’s best save of the night came in the 29th minute, coming 10 yards off his line to deny Maidana in the one-on-one situation.

After back-to-back clean sheets to open October, Sporting Kansas City’s 229-minute shutout streak came to an end in the 45th minute.

Vincent Nogueira forced a turnover in midfield and the Union capitalized on the counter when Brown smashed home a cross from Maidana with a first-time finish from inside the six-yard box. Brown — making his first MLS start — now has two goals in his 2014 campaign with both coming against Sporting KC.

Sporting Kansas City wasted little time in pulling level, earning a penalty kick seven minutes into the start of the second half.

Lawrence Olum dispossessed Nogueira 35 yards from goal, Paulo Nagamura picked out Saad with space on the left and the Lebanese international took a touch around the goalkeeper before being brought down. Dwyer converted the ensuing penalty kick, his seventh of the season to tie Preki (1996) for the club’s all-time single season record.

Dwyer now has 23 goals in all competition, a new single-season club record, with 22 coming in the regular season, second most in MLS and four more than the team’s previous single-season high set by Preki in 1996. The former first round draft pick has eight goals in his past nine MLS matches and is three behind Bradley Wright-Phillips in the MLS golden boot race.

MacMath made his only save of the night in the 57th minute, diving low to his right to turn away a shot from Soony Saad. The 2014 U.S. Open Cup runners-up then struck for the game-winning goal on the opposite end in the 71st minute.

Moments after entering the match as a second-half substitute, Ribeiro was left unmarked in the middle of the penalty area and collected a pass from Maidana before burying his shot into the back of the net from eight yards out. Maidana earned his second assist of the night and now has a team-best 11 assists on the season.

The Union might have been left to rue two missed opportunities — Ribeiro came close to a second in the 76th minute and Wenger was superbly stopped by Kronberg in the 82nd minute — to add to their lead, but a tightly marked Paulo Nagamura lifted his shot over the crossbar two minutes from full time on a night in which he made his 200th regular season start.

With the victory, Philadelphia improves to 7-4-6 under interim head coach Jim Curtin and moved up to sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

Sporting Kansas City will now shift gears for a road match in San Jose, Costa Rica, on Thursday for the group stage finale in the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League against Deportivo Saprissa. Sporting KC sits atop Group 2 with seven points and will advance to the quarterfinals for the second straight year with a draw or win on Thursday.
- Story from Sporting KC

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