Sporting KC

‘We gotta go win.’ How Sporting KC will approach unusual Champions League scenario

Sporting KC’s Roger Espinoza ahead of Monterrey match: We gotta go win

Sporting Kansas City plays host to Monterrey in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals at Children’s Mercy Park. Midfielder Roger Espinoza previewed the match.
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Sporting Kansas City plays host to Monterrey in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals at Children’s Mercy Park. Midfielder Roger Espinoza previewed the match.

At some point over the weekend, Peter Vermes finally engrossed himself in the film. Finally worked up the patience to sit through those 90 minutes in Monterrey, Mexico, all over again.

In the aftermath, he called it one of the most disappointing outings in his tenure as Sporting Kansas City’s coach. The film told him why.

“I think the frustrating part is we weren’t us. That’s not who we are,” he said. “I always say this: You’re never as good as your highs, and you’re never as bad as your lows. I would confidently say that’s not who we are.”

Sporting Kansas City’s blowout loss at Monterrey — a rumbling felt across the league — leaves the club in a humbling position for the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals. A self-inflicted one, to be sure.

As it plays host to Monterrey on Thursday, the series is all but over, dictated by that 5-0 result in the opening leg. Nothing short of a historic effort would be enough for Sporting KC to overturn the aggregate score.

So what now?

With the match almost certain to stand inconsequential in the broader picture of the season, do you punt it? Or do you preach the cliches: Play as if it’s 0-0?

“We gotta go win,” Sporting KC midfielder Roger Espinoza said. “If the five goals come, great. But we’re going to try to play to win and play to try to get the result that we need. But, hey, it’s not over until it’s over at the end of the day. It’s another 90 minutes that we have to prove ourselves.”

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The last phrase rings a little truer among some within Sporting’s higher ranks. There are those who would like to see pride take over — those who would like to see a historically proud club prove that 5-0 thrashing isn’t indicative of the team’s ability. And what better way to accomplish that than on the field ... against the same opponent?

That’s one argument.

Here’s another: Sporting KC returns to MLS play Sunday evening against the New York Red Bulls. Sporting is capable of competing for the top prize in MLS this season. After weeks of a jam-packed schedule, a rest could do the starters some good for the long haul, even if there’s no travel between the two matches.

Asked about balancing the pride factor and the looming MLS season, Vermes potentially tipped his hand, if ever so slightly, saying, “I would say all of the above is part of it. But, listen, we have a game to play. You gotta get over what happened (last week). You have to come out and play.”

The luster of Sporting KC’s deepest CCL run has vanished. The grandstands Thursday might indicate as much.

A more important factor could be unsealed on the field — how long last week’s failure will loom.

“It just wasn’t a good day — but that happens to people in everyday life, too,” Espinoza said of last week’s loss. “We were not on our game. It’s too bad it was in a game like that. I like that usually it’s only a couple games throughout the year for us, and we’re back at it again. So hopefully this is the game that we’re right back at it.”

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