Independiente visits Sporting KC tonight

A pivotal battle beckons Thursday night at Children’s Mercy Park when Sporting Kansas City plays host to Panamanian side Independiente in the decisive second leg of the 2019 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Quarterfinals.

Tickets for the 7 p.m. CT showdown are included in season ticket member packages and remain available at SeatGeek.com.

Thursday’s match will stream live in English on YahooSports.com and the Yahoo Sports app, while a Spanish-language telecast will air live on Univision Deportes. ESPN 95.3 FM (English) and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM (Spanish) will carry the game locally over the radio, and the new Sporting KC App will provide additional in-game updates.

In order to reach the Concacaf Champions League Semifinals for the first time, Sporting must overcome a 2-1 deficit against an Independiente outfit that prevailed last Wednesday in La Chorrera, Panama. Manager Peter Vermes’ men can win the series with a 1-0 triumph or a multi-goal victory, having claimed an important away goal through Ilie Sanchez in the first leg at Estadio Agustin Sanchez.

Tournament debutants Independiente, meanwhile, would advance with a win, a draw or a one-goal loss in which the visitors score at least twice (3-2, 4-3, etc.). The latter scenario would see Les Abejitas progress on the away goals tiebreaker. Should Sporting win by a 2-1 scoreline on Thursday, the series will be decided by a penalty kick shootout and no extra time will be played.

Second-leg scenarios
• Sporting wins the series with: a 1-0 victory or a win by multiple goals.
• Independiente wins the series with: a win, a draw or a one-goal loss in which they score at least twice (2-3, 3-4, etc.)
• The series goes straight to penalty kicks with: a 2-1 win for Sporting

Facing a must-win situation, Sporting will aim to build off Sunday’s 2-0 defeat of the Philadelphia Union. Ilie gave his team an early lead from the penalty spot, tying Krisztian Nemeth with his third goal of the year in all competitions, before a late Union own goal off a Gerso Fernandes cross sealed the result in a festive MLS home opener at Children’s Mercy Park.

Independiente has assumed the Cinderella role during the 2019 Champions League, upsetting Canadian giants Toronto FC with an emphatic 5-1 aggregate win in the Round of 16.

Manager Francisco Perlo’s side made another statement of intent last week, striking in either half through Romeesh Ivey and Alexis Corpas to sink Sporting. Ivey’s three goals are tied for the second-most in the tournament, while Panamanian international Omar Browne has been equally influential with two goals and two assists in three Champions League appearances.

Perlo fielded a second-choice squad on Saturday in Panama as Independiente settled for a 0-0 draw with Universitario in Liga Panameña de Futbol. His squad arrives in Kansas City hoping to win against another MLS side en route to the semifinals.

Prevailing on Thursday would be a historic achievement for both clubs and preserve the possibility of a team outside of Mexico winning the Champions League for the first time since the competition’s modern era began in 2008.

Moreover, the ultimate prize of $500,000 and a potential berth in the FIFA Club World Cup would remain a realistic target for the series winner. It would also pit Sporting or Independiente against the winner between Atlanta United FC and Monterrey in the semifinals, currently slated for April 2-4 and April 9-11. Monterrey owns a 3-0 aggregate lead going into tonight’s second leg in Atlanta.

Children’s Mercy Park has earned a reputation as one of the toughest places to play in the country, and Thursday gives Sporting the opportunity to leverage a powerful homefield advantage on the international stage. Past history paints a positive picture for the hosts, who are 4-0-3 at home all-time against Central American and Caribbean opponents. That seven-game stretch includes four multi-goal wins, four shutouts, 12 goals scored and just three goals conceded.

Sporting is one of five MLS clubs that have participated in the 2019 Champions League, which serves as North America’s premier club tournament. Toronto FC were eliminated in the Round of 16, while the New York Red Bulls and Houston Dynamo were ousted in the quarterfinals by Mexican foes Santos Laguna and Tigres UANL, respectively. Should Atlanta fail to overturn their 3-0 deficit versus Monterrey, Sporting will be the last MLS representative standing in the competition.

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