GUADALAJARA, Mexico – On the face of it, Cruz Azul coach Luis Fernando Tena has no real reason to approach Wednesday night’s CONCACAF Champions League first leg against Sporting Kansas City (8 pm ET, Fox Sports 2) with anything less than a full strength team.
After all, the club sits in first place in the Liga MX and is practically already qualified for the playoffs after 10 matches of the 17-game Clausura regular season.
But with Toluca resting players on Tuesday against San Jose Earthquakes, there are suggestions in the Mexican press that La Máquina could do the same.
“It is a good opportunity to show myself, which is what I need,” backup right back Gerardo Flores is quoted as saying in Récord on Tuesday, under the headline “Cruz Azul reserves want to show themselves against Kansas City.”
Sergio Nápoles hasn’t started a Liga MX game for Cruz Azul this Clausura season, but hints in the same article that he could be involved in Kansas City.
“It is an opportunity for all of us,” he said.
Cruz Azul did travel to Kansas City with their full squad, although a piece in Mediotiempo.com also suggests Tena may make changes from Saturday’s 3-0 loss at Tigres UANL.
“It could be the players with little activity (in the league) who appear on Wednesday, like Gerardo Flores or Rafael Baca, who came from MLS and hasn’t found a place in the starting XI,” reads the piece.
Also in Récord, Mariano Pavone said Cruz Azul definitely have the advantage of being in rhythm and in the midst of a season, while Sporting only started their 2014 MLS campaign last Saturday. He did add, however, that it is offset by the advantage the American side has due to the cold conditions in Kansas City – the temperature is likely to be a chilly 46 degrees at kickoff.
Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.