Sporting Kansas City won’t be the first MLS team to win the CONCACAF Champions League. In fact, they would probably like to forget the competition altogether for the time being.
Easier said than done.
Cruz Azul routed Sporting Kansas City 5-1 at Estadio Azul in Mexico City on Wednesday to win the Champions League quarterfinal series by an aggregate score of 5-2.
It started ugly. It only got worse.
Cruz Azul jumped on the scoreboard less than two minutes into the match on the first of three goals from striker Mariano Pavone, who took advantage of a plethora of mistakes on the outside of the Sporting KC defense, which played Wednesday without Seth Sinovic, Chance Myers and Aurelien Collin.
“We weren’t good enough at the start of the game, and we weren’t good enough in the second half,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. “You can think about all kinds of things, but in the end, they were better than us tonight.”
Nevertheless, Sporting Kansas City still had the advantage in the aggregate score when the teams broke for halftime.
Sporting KC played much of the opening half on its heels — a foreshadow of things to come — but Benny Feilhaber gave the club some life with a goal two minutes before halftime. After taking a short corner kick from Graham Zusi, Feilhaber pulled the trigger on a shot that found the smallest of seams through the Cruz Azul defense.
While the goal tied the aggregate series at two, it gave Sporting KC the series advantage, with the away goal serving as the first series tiebreaker.
It was short-lived.
Cruz Azul owned the second half, and Pavone wasn’t finished.
After scoring twice before halftime, Pavone completed his hat track in the 55th minute, a goal that pushed Cruz Azul’s lead to 3-1 in the match and 3-2 in aggregate scoring.
It served as the series-clincher for Cruz Azul, which moves on the competition’s semifinals.
“Against a player like that, you have to be tough, you have to be hard,” Vermes said. “You can’t give those guys any space. That guy, he’s an aggressive, very hungry player, and he doesn’t give you anything.”
Pavone led the onslaught, but his teammates were far from silent.
The wheels came off in the second half for Sporting KC, which watched as Mauro Formica and Christian Gimenez added goals to quickly put the series out of reach.
“We gave up four goals on the outside,” Vermes said. “That was the difference in the game.”
• Sporting KC will debut its new secondary jerseys Saturday when it plays host to San Jose.
The new jersey tops, unveiled earlier this month as part of the Sporting Takeoff event, feature horizontal stripes with the club’s light blue and dark indigo colors. The players will wear matching striped socks and dark shorts.