KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Sporting Kansas City found the net twice in Wednesday night's CONCACAF Champions League match. Neither time counted – but in the end, Sporting didn't need the scores anyway.
Facing Honduras' CD Olimpia in the final match of group play, Kansas City had two apparent scores nullified by offside calls, but a 0-0 draw – goalkeeper Eric Kronberg's third shutout in four qualifying matches – was enough to see them through to next year's quarterfinal round. Despite drawing in both of their home legs in group play, Sporting qualified for the knockout stage of the regional championship for the first time since 2002, when they reached the semifinals of a 16-team edition of the CONCACAF Champions' Cup.
Teal Bunbury put a low shot past Noel Valladares in the 36th minute but was in an offside position when Seth Sinovic sent a long header in to him. Then in the 54th minute, Graham Zusi appeared to score out of traffic in the penalty area only to see the flag go up again.
Sporting's lineup underscored their emphasis on defense, with defensive midfielder Lawrence Olum inserted as an extra center back in front of the first-choice back line. Still, Kansas City came out searching for a goal from the opening whistle, and it nearly paid off several times in the first half.
Jacob Peterson snapped a header toward the bottom left corner in the 26th minute, but Valladares made a dive to his right to knock it away. Sporting's pressure also nearly forced an own-goal in the 35th minute, when Javier Portillo put his attempted clearance of a long cross just outside his own right post.
Aside from Zusi's negated goal, Sporting's best chance to score after the break came when Bunbury got his head to Uri Rosell's cross in the 70th minute. He put his shot down and not in, though, and Valladares handled it easily.
Dom Dwyer, who came on for Bunbury in the 79th minute, got free for a 1-v-1 late in stoppage time but couldn't beat the 'keeper. Kronberg needed only one save for the shutout, his fourth in six matches across all competitions this year.
Center back Aurelien Collin will miss the first leg of the quarterfinals on a yellow-card suspension after being cautioned in the 25th minute for a collision with Valladares as both went for a high ball.
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
The Hondurans won't advance, but their goalkeeper kept them in it for 90 minutes with five saves
Tireless link between offense and defense for the MLS side; showed tremendous vision of the pitch all night
The big Frenchman will be missed in the first leg of the quarterfinal, but Sporting might not be there without his sequence of plays to destroy opportunities for the visitors