Sporting Kansas City won the second leg of its Concacaf Champions Cup quarterfinal match against Panamanian squad Club Atletico Independiente 3-0.
The win gave Sporting a 4-2 aggregate score over CAI and advances Sporting on to the semifinal round in early April.
Sporting was the more aggressive team from the start of the game. In need of at least one goal to have a chance at advancement, Kansas City pressed its attack. The attacking mentality showed up in 13 corner kicks from Johnny Russell, and 26 total shots for the game.
Runs down the right side from Johnny Russell and up the center from Krisztian Nemeth created scoring chances for the home team, but Independiente managed to parry all of Sporting’s attacks through the first 73 minutes. Goalkeeper Jose Guerra made several athletic saves to keep the game scoreless.
Nemeth opened the scoring in the 74th minute by knocking in a ball from six yards that was headed forward to him by defender Botond Barath.
Sporting added two more goals in quick succession, the first in the 81st minute by Roger Espinoza running up the middle and firing in a cross from Johnny Russell.
The final goal came in the 86th minute, again from Nemeth, who got a cross from the left by Gerso and pushed it inside the right goalpost.
The semifinal is the best showing by Sporting KC in its four Champions League appearances. Sporting is the only MLS team remaining in this year’s competition. Kansas City’s opponent in the semifinal will be Club Futbol de Monterrey, a member of Mexico’s Liga MX. The dates for the games have not been announced.
Kansas City will play away against the Colorado Rapids in MLS competition on Sunday, March 17.
The weather smiled on Sporting Kansas City’s MLS home opener, and the result did too. SKC posted a 2-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union under sunny skies and light breezes.
Sporting opened the scoring in the 11th minute when Gianluca Busio was taken down in the penalty area. Ilie Sanchez knocked in the penalty kick, directing it confidently to the right past the dive of Union goalkeeper Andre Blake.
Busio, at age 16, became the youngest player to start a game at Children’s Mercy Park. Head coach Peter Vermes praised the young midfielder after the game.
“He has incredible street smarts in the game,” Vermes said. “He sees things that other guys don’t.”
In spite of the score, Philadelphia controlled possession for most of the first half, roughly dispossessing Sporting KC of the ball on several occasions.
“I don’t think we played well in the first half. I thought we were choppy with the ball,” Vermes said.
Near the end of the half, Philadelphia earned a penalty kick of its own, when referee Chris Penso went to video review to confirm a Seth Sinovic handball. Kansas City goalkeeper Tim Melia dove low to his right to knock away Marco Fabian’s attempt.
Melia’s save percentage for penalty kicks is double the league average, but after the game, he shared the credit.
“Our team, our coaches, our goalkeeper staff, Ashley Wallce, they do such a good job giving all the goalkeepers so many statistics on all the shooters that it definitely gives us a competitive advantage in the game,” Melia said.
In the 60th minute, Philadelphia’s Marco Fabian was given a red card for spiking Johnny Russell. Graham Zusi’s free kick for the foul bounced off the goal frame, but the man advantage helped Kansas City extend possessions and bring its formation forward for attacks.
Kansas City sealed the game with a Philadelphia own goal in the 80th minute. A cross from the right side from Gerso Fernandes was intended for Kelyn Rowe in the box, but Philadelphia defender Jack Elliott misdirected his block into the net.
Sporting KC will play next in a Concacaf Champions League game on Thursday at home against Panamanian club Independiente la Chorrera at 7 p.m.