Sporting KC return home and return to the CONCACAF Champions League for their first game in the quarterfinals against Mexican side Cruz Azul. The home and away series will see KC head to Mexico next Wednesday for the second leg. Sporting will look to head to Mexico with a couple goal advantage in their hopes of advancing. While a win as a whole would be nice, going to Mexico with a multi-goal advantage would be huge for KC.
Cruz Azul comes into CCL play on the back of their first loss of the Mexican Clausura season, 3-0 to Tigres, a shocking result considering their standing in the league table. Up to that point, Cruz Azul had been 8-0-1 in league play, scoring 18 while allowing just 3. The loss may serve as the wake up call to keep Cruz Azul from coming into this game complacent, especially since the loss occurred with a majority of their starters on the field. I expect that they've traveled with a majority of their first team for this game as well.
Sporting on the other hand rested a few players ahead of this game, or at least that's the assumption. Paulo Nagamura, Chance Myers, and Seth Sinovic all sat out KC's game against Seattle with injuries. The reports out today have Myers and Sinovic both as doubts for tomorrows games. Combine that with Aurelien Collin being suspended for yellow card accumulation and KC could be without three quarters of their best back four with only captain Matt Besler remaining. Personally I feel like the Myers and Sinovic injuries are some gamesmanship by Vermes and I expect one or both to start against the Mexican side. And as for replacing Collin, Ike Opara filled in quite well throughout the 2013 season. Overall though I think we'll see KC throw out the best they can for this game.
Myers - Opara - Besler - Sinovic
Rosell - Nagamura
Zusi - Bieler - Zizzo
Key Match Up - Sporting KC's defense vs Marco Fabian - Fabian, the Mexican international is going to be a handful for KC to contain. And he's no stranger to scoring at Sporting Park:
Number to Remember -2 - That's the number of home and away series that MLS teams have won against Mexican teams in the CONCACAF Champions' League and it's predecessor, the Champions' Cup. The KC Wizards topped Santos Laguna 3-2 on aggregate in 2002, while Seattle topped Tigres by the same 3-2 aggregate scoreline. The other side of that though is both of those series saw the MLS team have the second leg at home, no MLS team has advanced when the Mexican team has had the second leg at home.
PREDICTION - If Sporting KC want to advance they need to get a result at home and they need to win by a couple goals. Cruz Azul is just too good of a team to not take advantage of your home field advantage. They'll need to have better finishing at home than they've shown in the past. I'm just not sure that KC can shut down Cruz Azul's offense enough while being able to produce enough offensively themselves to get a result that will make me comfortable in league two.
SKC - 1 (Bieler)
CA - 1 (Pavone)