CONCACAF Champions League: Sporting KC recognize immensity of Cruz Azul test
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Sporting Kansas City know what it's going to take to move on to the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals.
A win in Wednesday's second leg (10 pm ET, Fox Sports 2, Galavision) will do it. So will a draw. Sporting's 1-0 aggregate lead over Cruz Azul means they can even take a 1-goal loss in Mexico City, so long as they score once. (A 1-0 result for the home side would send the second leg to extra time.)
Now, what's it going to take to make any of those favorable results happen for Sporting?
“It's going to take all 11 to 14 players – whoever gets subbed in – it's going to take everyone busting their butt all 90-plus minutes,” goalkeeper Eric Kronberg told MLSsoccer.com on Monday. “They're a very good team, and if we snooze even a little bit, they're going to catch us. So they're cheeky, and we know that, and we've got to be locked in the whole time.”
Manager Peter Vermes, who constantly preaches concentration “on every roll of the ball,” said that will be especially true on Wednesday.
“You've got to be smart,” he said. “You have to be good on the ball, and you have to take advantage of your opportunities. You might not get a ton of them, but when you do, you've got to be able to finish the chances you get.”
One option is off the table, Vermes said: Sporting won't look to park the bus.
“We've got to play,” Vermes said. “We're not that type of team. We've never been that type of team. But we also know that it's a major challenge. They're a strong team. We have a lot of things that we're going to have to put into the formula.
“It's the altitude,” he went on. “It's a different climate from what we're used to being in. So there are a lot of things we're going to have to deal with, and the guys know it. We're going to have to go down there, and we've got to get a good result.”
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They'll have to get it without left back Seth Sinovic, who will miss Wednesday's match on caution accumulation. But on the plus side, Vermes said Monday that right back Chance Myers, who has missed Kansas City's first three competitive matches with a groin strain, could be available.
“He trained a little bit today,” Vermes said. “We're still looking at it. We're still seeing. But we'll get something put together.”
And while the 7,900-foot elevations in Mexico City might look daunting, winger Graham Zusi – who has played there twice with the US national team – said the altitude doesn't present an insurmountable hurdle.
“It's something where the first 10 minutes you might feel your lungs burning a little bit,” he said. “But after that, in my experience, you always get your second wind. It shouldn't be that much of an issue.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.