KANSAS CITY, Kan. – As the game ground on without a goal – well, without one that counted, anyway – Sporting Kansas City waited for CD Olimpia to go all-in.
The Hondurans needed a win to advance to the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals. Sporting needed only a draw. But Olimpia's need for three points on the table didn't translate into a similar urgency on the pitch, making Sporting's task all the easier. And in the end, the home team got the 0-0 draw that would see them through to the final eight.
“I was actually surprised that they waited that long to start throwing guys forward,” said goalkeeper Eric Kronberg, who needed just one save to record his third clean sheet in four group matches. “In the 75th, the keeper was still kind of holding the ball, stuff like that. I was surprised at the pace of the game they wanted. I think their goal was to get a late one, and I think we did well to hold them off.”
Still, Sporting couldn't relax after having two apparent goals – from Teal Bunbury in the 36th minute and Graham Zusi in the 54th – disallowed on offside calls.
“You've got to keep your team focused for 90 minutes,” Kronberg said. “That's part of being a goalkeeper. Those last 5-10 minutes, it's really important to stay focused and make sure nothing like that happens.”
Center back Aurelien Collin also was surprised that the visitors didn't press their case earlier and more strongly.
“Honestly, we had a lot of time on defense,” said Collin, who will miss the first leg of next year's quarterfinal on caution accumulation. “That was great for us, because we kept the ball a lot. I was expecting them to come and press us – but at the same time, when they were coming to press us we were covering them by doing the right pass at the right moment, so I think we managed this game well.”
And while the flags – and a standout five-save performance from Olimpia keeper Noel Valladares – kept the scoreline from showing it, Sporting dominated the stat sheet. They had almost 69 percent of the possession, won 55 percent of the duels and completed 86 percent of their passes.
“I don't feel like we're surviving, to be honest with you,” left back Seth Sinovic said. “I honestly thought we played well. We moved the ball well, especially the first half. I thought we got some really good opportunities.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.