Sporting KC played their third match in the Group 2 play of CONCACAF Champions League on Tuesday night at Sporting Park in Kansas City. The team sits in first place in the group, and the first place team from all eight groups in the competition will advance to the quarterfinals that will start at the beginning of 2014. Sporting KC had a great opportunity to seal their place in the quarterfinals, but a disappointing 1-1 draw against Nicaraguan side Real Esteli sets them back a game.
From the start of the match until the 90th minute, Sporting KC dominated the possession in the game; having possessed the ball 66.3% of the entire game. Sporting also dominated in the shots department, taking 22 shots to Real Esteli’s six. But only six of those 22 shots were on target. The first half saw Sporting KC get a few great looks on goal, including Claudio Bieler having a great chance 1-on-1 with the goalkeeper. But Real Esteli goalkeeper Justo Lorente was able to make the save.
The first half ended with the score 0-0, but Sporting KC should have had one or two goals in the first half. It took Real Esteli nine minutes to open the scoring in the second half. Sporting KC goalkeeper Eric Kronberg was forced to make a save on a shot from distance, which put the ball out for a corner kick. On the ensuing corner, Rudel Calero was able to rise above the Sporting KC defense and head the ball into the goal. It was Real Esteli’s first goal in the Champions League play this season.
With Real Esteli netting the first goal, the Nicaraguan switched to a very defensive mind set, with all 11 players playing behind the ball for a majority of the second half.
Sporting KC tried to breakthrough the defense, but with many blocked shots and some poor finishing, Kansas City was unable to find the equalizer until the 78th minute. Graham Zusi played a short corner to a wide open Jacob Peterson. Peterson was able to shoot from a very awkward position, slotting the ball underneath Lorente to tie the game up 1-1.
With Real Esteli wasting quite a bit of time to get their first points in the competition, there were five minutes of stoppage time added to the end of the second half. In the fifth minute of stoppage time, Sporting KC had a golden opportunity to take all three points. Lorente tried to clear the ball, but sliced it straight to Peterson, who was standing at the top of the 18 yard box. With Lorente off his line, it looked like Peterson had a wide open goal to shoot on. But Peterson’s shot was off target, pushing the ball just wide of the goal. The game would finish immediately after that.
With the draw, Sporting KC still sits in first place of Group 2 with 7 points. Olimpia sits in second place with 3 points, and Real Esteli is last with 1 point. Sporting KC has one game left in group play against Olimpia, which will take place in Kansas City on October 23rd. Olimpia will face Real Esteli on September 24th. If Real Esteli is able to beat Olimpia, Sporting KC will go through no matter the result they get with Olimpia in October. Otherwise, Sporting KC will either need to draw or win against Olimpia to make it through to the quarterfinals.
Sporting KC resumes MLS play on September 21st when they travel to Toronto. Sporting KC currently sits in third place in the Eastern Conference.