Even though Sporting Kansas City is embroiled in a high-intensity finish on the Major League Soccer front, the team’s focus at the moment is solely on tonight’s CONCACAF Champions League match.
With a Champions League quarterfinals berth on the line, Sporting Kansas City will play host to CD Olimpia of Honduras at 7 p.m. at Sporting Park in their final home match before the MLS playoffs begin.
“As much as there is a lot riding on the two games that we have to play, everybody realizes that their concentration has to be with the task at hand in this game against Olimpia,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said.
Sporting KC is unbeaten in Champions League qualifying and is atop Group 2 with a 2-0-1 record and seven points. CD Olimpia has six points, meaning that a draw today would secure a spot for Sporting Kansas City in the quarterfinals in March.
However, a victory would also bring the possibility of home-field advantage entering the quarterfinals.
“It would be big for us from a confidence aspect,” Sporting KC defender Seth Sinovic said. “I think we have a decent chance to have a good seed going into the next round if we do win.”
Sporting KC already has defeated CD Olimpia once this season, 2-0 on Aug. 27 in Honduras, sparked by two goals from Soony Saad. Still, Vermes is wary.
“They transition from defense to offense really well and have good movement off the ball, and they’re pretty clever guys,” Vermes said. “We’re going to have to be awake and alert in that game and not give them anything silly.”
After today’s game, it will be a quick turnaround for Sporting KC. On deck is a trip to Philadelphia for the squad’s final MLS match of the season, at 2 p.m. on Saturday, with the Supporters’ Shield on the line.
“We’re a very multidimensional team who’s also got the best defense in the league with the least amount of goals scored,” Sinovic said. “We’re a well-rounded team, and hopefully that will lead to a good push in the Champions League and into the playoffs.”
Having already clinched an MLS playoff berth, Sporting KC is one point behind the New York Red Bulls in the Supporters’ Shield standings. Defensively, Sporting KC leads MLS, having allowed just 29 goals in 33 matches.
Sinovic said this week’s back-to-back challenging games might just help the squad as it launches its bid in the MLS playoffs.
“Whenever we have an opportunity to play high-level games like this going into the playoffs — if we can get a couple wins — it will build that confidence and continue the momentum we have had as of late,” Sinovic said. “Those are big games for us this week.”