Sporting KC beats Toluca, 3-0

Sporting home: Sporting Kansas City starts pregame rituals before the Concacaf Champions League matchup with Toluca. Sporting KC won, 3-0. 

After a heartbreaking loss at the hands of the Portland Timbers in last year’s Western Conference Finals, Sporting Kansas City opened the 2019 season in the Concacaf Champions League against Toluca Thursday, Feb. 21. The first half was a tough period, but this did not translate as Sporting KC would roll over Toluca in the second half winning 3-0.

Early on, Sporting KC looked to push the tempo. Just on their first possession, Sporting advanced the ball deep into Toluca territory but came up empty handed. A little bit later, Sporting KC was on the attack again. Forward Gerso Fernandez fouled on the attack, which kept Sporting KC from doing more damage. 

Toluca was not going to stay quiet for long, the visitors caught Sporting by surprise and just about came away with a goal out of it but the Sporting KC defenders were able to stop Toluca from pushing the first goal across.

The attacking from Sporting KC was complicating the Toluca defense. Toluca got their chance to make the Sporting defense work soon afterward. The Toluca attack pushed Sporting to get back and defend, but it was almost too late. Goal keeper Tim Melia laid out to stop a Toluca shot to keep the score at zero. 

The first real chance for Sporting came when Christian Nemeth made it past the back line of Toluca. The Toluca defense were lucky as the tap shot from Nemeth went slightly right. 

In all of 2018, Nemeth only scored one goal. In 2019, this may change as Nemeth pushed his first goal of the season. It passed the Toluca goal keeper for the first goal of the season for Sporting KC. 

Toluca had one chance at the end of the first half to get a shot. After a couple quick touches in the corner, Toluca sent a cross through the heart of the Sporting KC defense, but it went too far and the defense of Sporting KC was able to make it out. 

At the end of the first half the players on both sides were starting to become hostile, setting up the second half to be a fight.

Out of the gate of the second half, Nemeth almost pushed his second goal of the night, but it hugged the wrong side of the goal as it went out of bounds. 

Toluca got a chance to equalize it, but the attack did not result in a goal. The ensuing scissor kick went above the crossbar and the Sporting defense was ready to get back on their own attack.

After 52 minutes, forward Gerso Fernandes got his season off to a fast start as he got his first goal of the season by rocketing the ball passed the Tolucan defense to give Sporting KC a 2-0 advantage.

The goals kept coming for Sporting in the 73-minute midfielder Ilie Sanchez tallied the third goal of the night on a screamer after a short volley session near the goal box. 

During the offseason, Sporting KC made multiple changes in their roster. The biggest addition to the season was midfielder Kelyn Rowe. In minute 78 he made his debut for Sporting KC.

All night it looked as if Sporting KC was better than their counterparts and throughout the first 75 minutes, this was the truth.  Time and time again, Sporting was able to get passed Toluca and come close to making the lead larger. Toluca, on the other hand, was clawing to make some magic happen. Whenever they had a chance they were quickly opposed.

Toluca was never able to break through the Sporting defense as Sporting KC took leg one of the two leg series against Toluca, 3-0. 

All night Gerso, Nemeth and forward Johnny Russell were making their way against Toluca. This was not a surprise to Nemeth as they were doing this back in spring training. 

“The whole preseason the three of us, Johnny, Gerso and I, we have all played well together so what happened tonight showed that,” Nemeth said.

After Gerso’s goal, he did a little celebration that meant much more than soccer.

“My wife is pregnant and she’s due in July, so that was for her and the baby that was coming,” Gerso said.

The next game for Sporting KC will be at 9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28 in Toluca, Mexico. The MLS regular season opens for Sporting KC against the Los Angeles FC on March 3.