SPORTING KC

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Sporting Kansas City moved atop the Group 2 standings in the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League with a 3-1 victory over Costa Rica’s Deportivo Saprissa at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan., on Thursday.

Antonio Dovale scored twice in the second half and now has three goals in the tournament, while Dom Dwyer converted a first half penalty kick for his 20th goal in all competition this season.

Dwyer gave Sporting Kansas City an early 1-0 lead in the 14th minute. Benny Feilhaber was brought down in the penalty area by Saprissa goalkeeper Dany Alvarez after combining with Dwyer on a give-and-go that unlocked the defense. Referee Fernando Guerrero pointed to the spot and Dwyer sent a powerful shot to his right for his seventh successful penalty kick of the season.

Dwyer, who also scored in last year’s edition of the CONCACAF Champions League, has now scored in each of his last four appearances. On Tuesday, the first 10,000 fans inside Sporting Park for Sporting Kansas City’s CCL match-up with Real Esteli FC will receive a limited edition poster courtesy of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City to celebrate Dwyer’s record-setting season.

The Englishman nearly struck again on two occasions in the minutes following his penalty kick. His header off a Graham Zusi corner kick was directed just wide in the 16th minute and the two connected again three minutes later only for Alvarez to thwart Dwyer with a superb save in the one-on-one situation.

On the opposite end, Sporting KC goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum raced off his line in the 18th minute to challenge Ariel Rodriguez outside the area on a ball played behind the backline by Manfred Russell. Gruenebaum timed his tackle well, however the ball came off Rodriguez last and rolled perilously wide of the empty net.

Sporting Kansas City threatened to double their lead less than 20 minutes into the encounter as Zusi forced a sprawling stop from Alvarez on his long-distance strike from 35 yards out. Nevertheless, it was the visitors who found the coveted equalizer in the 28th minute from the foot of Juan Bustos. Saprissa’s long throw into the penalty area fell to Daniel Colindres, who laid the ball back for Bustos to set up a thunderous, left-footed shot inside the far post.

The final scoring opportunity of the first half would come off a corner kick taken by Dovale and headed on frame by Dwyer. Alvarez dove low to his right to push away the shot, though Jorge Claros was first to the loose ball and struck a first-time shot off the post from a tight angle near the end line.

In search of the go-ahead goal, Saprissa nearly surprised the hosts at the start of the second half. Rodriguez, who had scored four goals in his previous two CCL matches, found time and space inside the area but pushed his shot wide of the post.

Sporting KC would take control for the remainder of the fixture on a night when the reigning MLS Cup champions outshot their opposition 17-7 with a 10-2 advantage in shots on goal. Dovale showed a glimpse of the goals to come with a shot aimed inside the near post in the 54th minute that required a full-extension save from Alvarez.

Fifteen minutes later, Dovale found the back of the net with his first of two goals in a seven-minute span. Zusi’s cross-field switch connected with Igor Juliao along the right flank and the Brazilian outside back promptly sent the ball looping into the area with his first touch. Dovale took it out of the air with a full volley from just inside the edge of the 18-yard box for the game-winning goal.

Dovale completed his double in the 76th minute with an emphatic finish at the back post. The cross from Dwyer was ever-so-slightly touched by Feilhaber in the center of the goalmouth and came to the waiting Spaniard, who made no mistake in sending his shot into the roof of the net.

Sporting Kansas City’s victory marked only the second time in club history that the team scored three goals in a competitive international match and the first such three-goal game since the 2001 Copa Merconorte. Dovale’s three goals in international competition are second most by a KC player all-time, tied with Roy Lassister and one behind Chris Brown.

Thursday’s win was the first against a Costa Rican opponent in this year’s CONCACAF Champions League and leaves the two sides level with four points in the Group 2 standings. Sporting KC holds the head-to-head tiebreaker and will next face Nicaraguan champions Real Esteli on Tuesday at Sporting Park before the rematch with Deportivo Saprissa in Costa Rica on Oct. 23.
- Story from Sporting KC

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Sporting Kansas City continues its 2014-2015 CONCACAF Champions League campaign on Thursday as it plays host to Deportivo Saprissa in the first of back-to-back group stage matches at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan.

Sporting KC (0-0-1, 1 pt) and Saprissa (1-0-1, 4 pts) were drawn into Group 2 of this year’s edition of the tournament along with Real Esteli FC (0-1-2, 2 pts).

Tickets to both matches are included in Sporting Kansas City season ticket packages. Additional tickets can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com or at the Sporting Park box offices on game day. Because of CONCACAF regulations, there will be no standing room only tickets released for CCL home matches.

Thursday’s match will kick off at 7 p.m. and will be nationally televised on Fox Sports 1 (English) and Univision Deportes (Spanish).

Sporting Kansas City opened the 2014-2015 CCL group stage in Nicaragua, playing Real Esteli FC to a 1-1 draw at Estadio Independencia last month. Sporting KC conceded an own goal in the sixth minute before winger Antonio Dovale leveled the score 10 minutes later with a perfectly placed free kick.

Sporting KC advanced from group stage of the 2013-2014 edition of the tournament before falling to eventual champions Cruz Azul in the quarterfinals.

Saprissa will be making its fourth appearance in the current format of the competition and first since the 2011 edition when they reached the semifinal stage. Sporting KC and Saprissa have previously played in CONCACAF competition meeting in the 2005 Champions Cup quarterfinals. Saprissa prevailed 2-1 on aggregate after a scoreless first leg in Kansas City.

In this year’s tournament, Deportivo Saprissa leads Group 2 with four points after two games against Real Esteli: a 1-1 road draw and a 3-0 home victory. Real Esteli is second with two points through three contests. Sporting KC can draw even with Saprissa in the standings with a win on Thursday. Sporting KC is the only MLS team making a second consecutive appearance in the CCL and conceded just one goal in three CCL matches at Sporting Park during last year’s competition.

Saprissa is the defending champion of the Costa Rican Primera Division and is undefeated (3-0-1) in their first four league games. Forward Ariel Rodriguez is the Champion’s League joint-top scorer thus far with four goals in the tournament, including a hat-trick on Aug. 26.

The CONCACAF Champions League features the top club teams 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).

- Story from Sporting KC

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Sporting Kansas City completes a three-game road trip this Friday against Chivas USA at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.

The match is set to kick off at 9:30 p.m. Central time and will be televised locally on KMCI 38 The Spot and across the Midwest on SKCTV, with radio coverage available on Sports Radio 810 WHB (English) and La Gran D 1340 AM (Spanish).

The defending MLS champions (12-10-6, 42 points) have lost four straight matches for the first time since May 2011, but remain second in the Eastern Conference and own a League-best seven road wins this season.

Chivas USA (6-15-6, 24 points) sits at the bottom of the Western Conference and will be without star striker Erick Torres (14 goals), who serves the first of a two-game suspension.

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