Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sporting Gets Rematch Chances in 2014-2015 CONCACAF Champions League

Sporting KC has a rough draw for the 2014-2015 CONCACAF Champions League, but will get the chance for some revenge against teams they've previously played in the competition.

KC ended up with one of the tougher draws in competition, getting drawn with Costa Rican side, Deportivo Saprissa and Nicaraguan team, Real Esteli. Sporting has previously played both teams in international competition, Saprissa in the 2005 CONCACAF Champions Cup (the precursor to the current Champions League) and Esteli in last year's group stage.

Combined, Sporting is1-1-2 against the two teams. Sporting drew both home games against the teams, winning on the road in Nicaragua, and losing in Costa Rica.

Against Saprissa, the Wizards drew 0-0 in front of a very small crowd at Arrowhead at the end of the 2005 preseason, right before the season started. When KC traveled to Costa Rica, they took a late 1-0 lead through Jose Burciaga in the 79th minute. At the time there was plenty of hope that KC would hold on with the strong defense they had at the time, but in stoppage time, Gerald Drummond found net to tie the game at 1-1. That's how the game ended at full time. In the current format of the competition, the Wizards would have gone through on away goals. But in the competition at that time, there was no away goals so the two teams went to extra time. Early in the first extra period, Drummond found net again to give Saprissa the lead. They held on to win the series 2-1 and ended up winning the entire competition that year beating two Mexican sides on the way to the championship.

Saprissa's stadium, Estadio Ricardo Saprissa Ayma, the Monster's Cave, is an extremely intimidating stadium for any team to come and play. It'd been the national team stadium for years until their new stadium was built. In fact after Snowmageddon in Denver in a World Cup qualifier, the Costa Rican FA tried to move their qualifier against the US to the Monster's Cave but were turned down. The fans are right on top of the field there and it's known for having some of the worst turf around. It'll be definitely be one of the most intimidating environments most KC players will have played in.

Sporting KC matched up against Esteli first on the road, getting a 2-0 win thanks to goals by Ike Opara and Dom Dwyer. In the return leg, KC dominated play throughout the game, but as is normal for KC at times, they couldn't find the net. Early in the second half, Rudel Calero scored off a corner to give Esteli the lead. Jacob Peterson saved Sporting's blushes as he turned in a corner at the near post in the 78th to level the game at 1-1.

It's going to be a tough go for KC this time around. Like last year when KC played Olimpia and Esteli, I said KC needed to win both at home and get a result on the road at Esteli.  The same holds true this year. KC needs to win both of their home games, that's going to be key for them this year. They can't expect to walk into Saprissa and get a result like they did last year at both Esteli and Saprissa. And Esteli will know more of what to expect from KC having played them last year.

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