Playing in its first international competition since 2009, Sporting Kansas City started the 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League with a 2-0 victory Wednesday against Real Esteli FC in the Group 2 opener at Estadio Independencia in Esteli, Nicaragua.
“We were very organized and had great shape in the game,” coach Peter Vermes said. “We took our chances well when we got them and, especially in the first half, I thought we were very good in possession.
“The start of the second half, I thought they had a little bit of the game. But then we took it back over and closed the game out really well. Everything from the management of the score to the different situations in the game, I thought we were very good and we were locked into the game.”
Sporting KC seized control in the 31st minute when midfielder Benny Feilhaber lofted an out-swinging cross from roughly 30 yards away from Real Esteli’s goal toward the left post.
Defender Ike Opara jumped over Real Esteli defender Douglas De Souza and sent a rainbow header back across the box and into the upper right corner inches from goalkeeper Justo Lorente’s outstretched fingertips for a stunning go-ahead tally.
“I don’t know if he was trying to flick it back across the face of the goal or he was trying to head in his own goal, but it doesn’t matter,” Vermes said. “It was an excellent ball from Benny and Ike got up very high like he’s been doing. It was great for us to get that goal going into halftime.”
Sporting KC nearly had made it 2-0 in the first minute of the second half off another Feilhaber set piece, but defender Aurelien Collin was a hair offside and the goal was disallowed.
Eventually, Dom Dwyer added the insurance goal in the 76th minute for Sporting KC.