Sporting KC advances to SCCL semi-final

After defeating Toluca FC in the first round of the CONCACAF Champions League, Sporting Kansas City hosted Independiente, the representative of the Panamanian league, in the quarterfinals round. 

For most of the game, Independiente was able to thwart any attack from Sporting, but on a night like Thursday, Sporting would not settle. It took 74 minutes for Nemeth to score the first goal, but once he did, the team never looked back. They defeated Independiente, 3-0.

All throughout the first period, there were moments where Sporting fans held onto their seat in hopes of the first goal to push them through to the semi-final round. While Sporting was pushing the tempo, Independiente was stalling, which caused multiple heated moments. 

Early on, forward Daniel Salloi got past the back line of Independiente and had a couple opportunities to put Sporting ahead, but his chances turned into missed opportunities. A few minutes later, Salloi would leave the game with an injured ankle. Forward Gerso Fernandes entered to replace him.

From then on, it seemed as if Independiente did not know how to counter Sporting KC. There were only a couple times when Independiente had a chance to score a goal, but the defense was too good.

Before halftime, forward Krisztian Nemeth was pressing with the ball outside the box when an Independiente defender went in for a tackle. Instead of kicking the ball away from Nemeth, the defender brought him down and Nemeth was awarded a free kick. The ensuing free kick was a beautiful curler that was destined to find the top right corner of the goal, but Independiente’s goal keeper would not allow that to happen as he made a spectacular diving save. 

Both teams entered the half scoreless after a barrage of shots from Sporting. 

The first half was filled with Sporting laying on the pressure and the second half was nothing different. Time and time again, Sporting was able to break through Independiente’s defense and look at a shot. Most of the time though, they were not able to sneak a goal past the goal keeper. That was the story for most of the second half, but then Sporting KC flipped the script.

After a pass from defender Botond Barath and forward Johnny Russell, Nemeth was let open in front of the goal and finally put an end to Sporting’s woes. He pushed the first goal past the goal keeper to give Sporting a 1-0 lead. 

After the first goal, midfielder Ilie Sanchez knew they had to keep the pressure on Independiente.

“We knew that was coming. When we finally scored, they had to do something else,” Sanchez said. “I think that we managed those situations pretty well so they couldn’t do anything.”

Only a few minutes later, Russell and Gerso connected to give Roger Espinoza a look to double the lead, and that he did. After a cross from Gerso found Russell alone in the box, Russell sent it over to midfielder, Roger Espinoza, who powered home the second goal of the night for Sporting KC.

With Independiente in shock of the sudden turn, Nemeth added one more goal to his total to give Sporting a dominating 3-0 lead. 

The 3-0 was enough for Sporting to advance to the semi-final round of the CONCACAF Champions League. They will face a tough test in Monterrey. 

While this is the first time that Sporting KC has qualified for the semi-final round, Nemeth and his team are taking things one game at a time.

“We go game by game. We have a lot of games. Now we have to prepare for the weekend,” Nemeth said. “We have a game against Colorado. Of course, we know the Mexican team is dangerous. We’re going to play against Monterrey. It’s going to be a good test for us. We go into the game expecting to win. We’ll see what is going to happen.”