Cruz Azul entered Sporting Park on Wednesday as one of the hottest teams in Mexico. It won eight of its first 10 matches in the Mexico Primera league.
It left with a loss Wednesday. Sporting Kansas City defeated Cruz Azul 1-0 in the first game of a two-game CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series.
Cruz Azul coach Luis Fernando thought his team played well and said Sporting KC’s victory was an indication of the growth of MLS.
“The MLS has obviously progressed. Technically, the players are very gifted,” Fernando said through a translator. “They’re as athletically and strong as we’ve always known them to be, (but) now you see very technically-gifted players as well in the MLS. You see the improvement to the point where (I) consider the MLS and Mexican teams very even. In terms of quality, it’s difficult to separate them.”
• After sitting out Saturday’s MLS opener in Seattle with various injuries, midfielder Paulo Nagamura, defender Seth Sinovic and defensive midfielder Uri Rosell returned to the Sporting Kansas City starting lineup Wednesday.
But the club remained without defender Chance Myers, who was not available Wednesday with a right groin strain. Center back Aurelien Colin sat out with yellow card accumulation, leaving Sporting KC thin on its back line.
Sinovic injured his right hip in the club’s preseason finale on March 1.
Rosell appeared for the first time since spraining his ankle seven minutes into the MLS Cup match against Real Salt Lake on Dec. 7.
• The absences in Sporting KC’s defense opened up an opportunity for Kevin Ellis, a 22-year-old homegrown player who attended Oak Park High School.
With Ellis making his fourth career start, three of the four members of Sporting KC’s starting back line were Kansas City players — Ellis, Sinovic and captain Matt Besler.
• Sinovic will miss the return leg of the two-game series this Wednesday after picking up a yellow card in the 77th minute Wednesday. It was his second card in CCL play, which requires a one-game suspension.
Sinovic was shown the card Wednesday for delaying an out-of-bounds restart — a call with which he disagreed.
“You saw the tape,” he said.