Sporting Kansas City faces its toughest test of the CONCACAF Champions League group stage Tuesday with a battle against CD Olimpia, which kicks off at 9 p.m. from Estadio Nacional in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
Sporting KC, which beat Real Esteli 2-0 on Aug. 7 in Nicaragua, could have a stranglehold on Group 2 with a victory, but a loss would put added pressure on the return legs at Sporting Park in the coming months.
“It’s going to be tough, because it’s an away game against an opponent we’ve never played against,” manager Peter Vermes said. “We’ve got to go there and try to get a result against a good team. It will be a difficult contest based on the fact that they are a good team and it will be a difficult place to play. It’s going to be strange for us.”
Olimpia also beat Real Esteli 1-0 in its opening match.
That result puts Sporting KC and Olimpia tied atop the three-team round-robin group with three points., though Vermes’ squad has more goals and a better goal-differential — at least for now.
“It would be huge if we could get a result,” Vermes said. “We’re in a good place right now, but we’ve got two 45-minute halves to play and a lot can happen in that time period.”
Olimpia is a 27-time championship in Honduras’ top division and one of only two teams to participate in all six editions of the CONCACAF Champions League along with El Salvador’s Isidro Metapan.
Los Leones are led by Roger Rojas, who has three goals in only 194 minutes in Honduras’ Liga Nacional, but he was loaned Sunday to West Ham United in the English Premier League.
Still, it provides an idea of the talent level on the squad.
The Houston Dynamo acquired midfielder Alexander Lopez from Olimpia last month as a young Designated Player.
“They are a really good transition team, so that part’s going to be a big thing for us to manage and be alert to throughout the game,” Vermes said. “We’re really going to have to manage that part.
“There are a lot of very hungry players on their team, and when they decide to go forward, they make a pretty serious commitment. They are a team that is just really hungry on both sides of the ball.”
The CONCACAF Champions League is important for Sporting KC, but with the club’s league results headed south in the last month — four losses in the last five, slipping from first place in the Eastern Conference — it remains to be seen how aggressive Vermes will be against Olimpia.
“We’re going to put a good group out on the field, that’s all I can tell you,” Vermes said. “Obviously, with the number of games and the travel, I’ve got to manage the group, but we’re going be put a good team out there, a team that we think can get us the result we need.”
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.