CONCACAF: Sporting KC 1 Cruz Azul 0
The CONCACAF quarter-final tournament continued with Sporting KC facing off against Mexican side Cruz Azul. The match started with a few players in disciplinary trouble on both sides of the ball. One positive note for Sporting KC was seeing defender Seth Sinovic back on the pitch. Sinovic was ruled questionable due to hip tightness.
Sporting pressed the tempo on offense and tested Cruz Azul goalkeeper Jesús Corona early and often. Although Sporting KC had an early scare as Mariano Pavone got a shot past Sporting goalie Eric Kronberg. This potential goal was reversed by the offside flag being thrown up.
During the 17th minute SKC forward Claudio Bieler kicked a long pass to defender Kevin Ellis. Ellis sidestepped a defender and bounced a shot inside the near goalpost with two defenders hanging on him. The sold out crowd in the Cauldron erupted while Corona stood in disbelief.
The two sides continued battling back and forth until the end of the half. When halftime rolled around, Sporting KC had outshot Cruz Azul 7-2. Twitter was alive with confidence and the official team twitter stated during halftime “On this day, Kevin Ellis is officially trending on twitter.”
Once the second half whistle blew, the teams were at it again. Cruz Azul controlled the tempo and pressed Sporting back to their goal on numerous occasions. Kronberg came up big on numerous occasions and helped shut the talented team out.
Suspensions will become a big issue as there will be a few players who will not be taking part in the second leg of the tournament. Sinovic, just returning from an injury, will miss the second leg after receiving his second yellow card in the tournament. Cruz Azul wasn't immune to referee's card book either as Alejandro Castro will also miss the second leg.
This win was a much needed boost following the loss to Seattle. Sporting KC holds a 1-0 aggregate lead when the two teams meet in Mexico for the next leg. While this is a positive result, it must be taken with a grain of salt. Cruz Azul will be dangerous at home and it will take more than a 1-0 lead to move on.
"This is a competition that we have been waiting for two years since we won the U.S. Open Cup and qualified. We knew going into the quarterfinals that Cruz Azul was going to be the most difficult opponent that we would face. It's a very good team, well coached and the players are technically sound," head coach Peter Vermes told the media. "For us, it was a big match and we expended a lot of energy. We worked very hard and it's a shame we could not get a second goal. We had some very good chances. But all in all, I think our work ethic ruled the day."