Sporting Falls to Monterrey in Champions League Semis
Sporting Kansas City's run in the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League ended Thursday in a 5-2 semifinal defeat to Mexican side CF Monterrey at Children's Mercy Park. Gerso Fernandes scored twice for the hosts during a breathless first half, but Rayados rallied after halftime to claim a 10-2 aggregate win and advance to the Concacaf Champions League Finals for the fourth time.
As one of four semifinalists in North America's premier club tournament, Sporting will take home $200,000 in prize money and exit the competition as the furthest-advancing MLS team in the 2019 Champions League.
With the pursuit of a continental title out of reach, Sporting will now cast full focus on the resumption of the MLS regular season. Manager Peter Vermes' men return to Children's Mercy Park on Sunday, hosting the New York Red Bulls in a marquee matchup between the 2018 first-place finishers in the Eastern and Western Conferences, respectively. The 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final rematch is slated for 6 p.m. CT on FS1 with tickets available at SeatGeek.com.
Despite carrying a 5-0 deficit into Thursday's second leg, Sporting were buoyed by an electric Children's Mercy Park crowd in the early stages of the return fixture. Gerso opened the scoring and ignited hopes of an epic comeback in the sixth minute, steering a volley in off the post after Johnny Russell had whipped a delightful cross into the box.
Committing numbers forward in search for more, Sporting were breached on the counter attack in the 20th minute. Monterrey forward Rogelio Funes Mori broke free down the left side and finished low past goalkeeper Tim Melia to open his Champions League scoring account and net his ninth goal of the season in all competitions.
Rayados had entered the night with just one goal allowed through five Champions League matches, but Sporting struck for their second of the night in the 29th minute. Russell rummaged forward and unleashed a curler that goalkeeper Marcelo Barovero did well to save, but Gerso hammered the rebound into the top corner to secure his brace and bag his fourth goal of the tournament.
Two more flashbulb moments unfolded before the break. Rodolfo Pizarro slotted home from close range in the 39th minute, then Barovero denied Ilie Sanchez from the penalty spot at the opposite end to keep the sides deadlocked at 2-2.
Sporting thought they had reclaimed the lead on 49 minutes, but Seth Sinovic was flagged offside after nodding Graham Zusi's cross into the back of the net at the far post. Russell threatened twice in quick succession a few minute later, but his dipping free kick and a tight-angle shot off a Krisztian Nemeth feed narrowly missed the mark.
Rayados surged ahead in the 61st minute thanks to a stunning 25-yard free kick from Mexican international Miguel Layun. The strike preceded a wild sequence that saw Funes Mori and Zusi both fire marginally wide on opposite ends.
Monterrey added a pair of insurance goals in the final 10 minutes as Aviles Hurtado's curler in the 82nd minute was followed by a stoppage-time goal from Funes Mori.
QUOTES Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes
On the team's approach to the second leg...
I think that it's an important competition and we should play it to our fullest. I think we were in the game other than that we gave up two very soft goals early. That was the difference in the game for sure. After the first goal went in, you could see that we were deflated.
On the team's takeaways from CCL moving forward...
First off, you can't put yourself in the deficit that we did going down there. Number two is you have to be much tougher in that you don't give away soft goals like we did. We gave away soft goals there and we gave away soft goals here tonight. The first two were just ridiculous. When you do that and you're playing against a team that's good, they're going to score. It's simple.
On the turnaround to Sunday and now focusing only on MLS play...
If you're only concentrating on one thing not two, obviously it makes it easier. Common sense would say yes. For me, when you get beat, you're always going to have something inside you that's going to want you to be better the next time you go out. That's going to be up to see how the players react from that perspective. Our staff will be the same. We'll work and be ready to get ready for the game. At the end of the day, the players have to perform on the field. They're going to have to show that they have something inside them.
On the play of Gerso...
He's been working hard. He's played very well. He's got a good mentality. He came in fit this year. All those things are the reasons why he has played so well as we started this year. It's really a credit to the way he did his work in the offseason and the way he's worked in the preseason.
On the play of Gianluca Busio...
First off, he's played very well. There's time when he can start over guys as well. He deserves the experience. He plays well. He has great instincts in the game. He's very intelligent in the way that he enters. The ball goes out of bounds, he knows to pick it up quickly. He knows to throw it in. He has good tricks of the trade for a kid his age. He's not getting in there because he's 16. He's getting in there because he can play.
On the team's motivation in the second leg...
We're always going to go to try and win. It hasn't changed. When I look at the guys who I put out there today, they had an opportunity. I believe some of them fell short. I think some guys played really well and I thought our mentality was good going into the game. But again, when you give up soft goals the way that we did, whether you're in a competition like this or just playing a league match or playing whatever, you just can't give up soft goals like that. We did that twice against this team and that hurt us.
Sporting Kansas City forward Gerso Fernandes
On the team's approach to this second leg...
We knew the game would be difficult. We tried everything we could to score as soon as possible. We did. But after that we conceded a goal and it was difficult for us.
On the takeaways from this year's Champions League campaign...
It was a good experience as a team. We learn from the mistakes we made as a team. Next time we will be better.
CF Monterrey head coach Diego Alonso
Thoughts on the match...
It was a complicated game, but they had to risk more so we could do things better. We had to break the pressure, so we had to keep going with the flow and get more goals. We have great players and played a great series. Kansas City also has great players. They were a great rival and we're thankful for everything.
On making the finals...
We're happy about being in another final. It's the second one in nine months. We are ready for the final. It's going to be a great series also. It's with a rival from our city and it's going to be a great thing for us and for the fans.
On playing Tigres in the final...
It's going to be a very important game. It has the meaning of any final. That would be the case with any opponent, not just Tigres. We've had the idea of being champions all tournament. It's not going to be any different. It's going to be the most important game of the season. It being the CONCACAF final is extra. We want to give the championship to the people, to our fans. It has a lot of meaning and we want to give it to them.
On how he will carry this play forward...
We know that we played better in the second half. We're going to keep doing this in the next games and we want to go with force for the final. We're going to keep doing what we've been doing, and it will be good for us.
On what MLS teams can do to compete...
I don't have an answer for what MLS can do to be better competition because I don't have enough knowledge of MLS. The only knowledge I have is the 2017 CONCACAF Champions League and the teams I have gone against. MLS has competitive teams. There's not a great difference between them and the Mexican league. MLS has difficult teams that play strong.
2019 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League
Semifinals (Leg 2 of 2)
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, KS
Weather: 48 degrees and clear
Score 1 2 F AGG
Sporting Kansas City (3-3-0) 2 0 2 2
CF Monterrey (4-1-1) 2 3 5 10
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi, Andreu Fontas (Botond Barath 56), Matt Besler (C), Seth Sinovic; Ilie Sanchez, Roger Espinoza (Gianluca Busio 57), Felipe Gutierrez; Johnny Russell, Krisztian Nemeth (Daniel Salloi 64), Gerso Fernandes
Subs Not Used: Adrian Zendejas, Nicolas Hasler, Yohan Croizet, Kelyn Rowe
CF Monterrey: Marcelo Barovero (C); Stefan Medina, Cesar Montes, Johan Vasquez (Leonel Vangioni 60); Miguel Layun, Celso Ortiz, Carlos Rodriguez, Jesus Gallardo (Maximiliano Meza 64); Aviles Hurtado, Rogelio Funes Mori, Rodolfo Pizarro (Dorlan Pabon 61)
Subs Not Used: Luis Cardenas, Edson Gutierrez, Eric Cantu, Adam Bareiro
SKC -- Gerso Fernandes 3 (Johnny Russell 2) 6
MTY -- Rogelio Funes Mori 1 (Rodolfo Pizarro 2) 20
SKC -- Gerso Fernandes 4 (unassisted) 29
MTY -- Rodolfo Pizarro 1 (Jesus Gallardo 1) 45
MTY -- Miguel Layun 1 (unassisted) 61
MTY -- Aviles Hurtado 2 (Maximiliano Meza 1) 82
MTY -- Rogelio Funes Mori 2 (Dorlan Pabon 1) 91+
SKC -- Felipe Gutierrez (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 26
MTY -- Cesar Montes (yellow card; time wasting) 36
SKC -- Ilie Sanchez (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 60
Stat SKC MTY
Shots 17 10
Shots on Goal 4 5
Saves 0 2
Fouls 20 15
Offsides 5 1
Corner Kicks 3 0
Referee: Joel Aguilar
Assistant Referee: Juan Francisco Zumba
Assistant Referee: Juan Carlos Mora
Fourth Official: Said Martinez
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