CCL Journal: Honduras Edition

Sporting Kansas City returns to CONCACAF Champions League action this week which means it's time for another Champions League journal! Over the next 48 hours, we'll bring you in-depth coverage of the club's journey to Honduras to take on 27-time Honduran first division champion CD Olimpia.

Tuesday's match is critical for both clubs as they are each coming off wins over Nicaraguan club Real Esteli and are tied for first place in Group 2. The match will kick off at 9 p.m. CT and can be seen live on FOX Soccer Plus with Steve Cangialosi and Keith Costigan on the call. For fans who do not have FOX Soccer Plus, the match will be streamed online at FOXSoccer2Go, which is offering a two-week free trial for new users.

For fans who missed our last CCL journal, check out our 'Journey to Nicaragua' here.

Our man on the ground Kurt Austin (give him a follow @kaustin01) is back again to provide us updates on the team's journey that begins Monday morning with a pit-stop in Brownsville, Texas, and ends Wednesday morning when the team touches back down in Kansas City.

Also, be sure to follow @SportingKC on Twitter and Facebook for the latest news surrouding the Sporting KC organization.


7:00PM on 8/28/13: Time to close the chapter on a whirlwind adventure to/from Honduras. The bus ride from Estadio Nacional to Ramón Villeda Morales International Airport began with a few celebratory beverages from a convenience store conveniently located across from the stadium and ended with a not so convenient three-hour wait for an immigration officer named Elvis to allow us to exit the country. Strange things are bound to happen during international travel and sitting on the curb of a Central American airport at 3am certainly fits the bill. Thankfully, the airport internet connection provided a perfect platform to capture the players entertaining exploits...Twitter.

In the end, the team touched down in Kansas City around 2pm CT -- some 14 hours after beginning the voyage home.


10:30PM on 8/27/13: Country music is cranking in the locker room postgame as Sporting KC celebrates an emphatic 2-0 win on the road to claim first place in Group 2! Soony Saad is Man of the Match with two goals, the first on an assist from Graham Zusi and the second from the penalty spot after a 75-yard run from Dom Dwyer to earn the PK. Eric Kronberg records his second straight shutout in the tournament with the Sporting KC defense conceding just one shot on goal in the game.

A very pleased Peter Vermes spoke to media afterward, saying "It's a humongous result. It's huge to come here -- not an easy trip by any means with the travel and everything else -- and put in an unbelievable tactical performance."

The team now boards the bus for the four-hour drive back to the San Pedro Sula airport for the flight home. Three points coming through customs!

Be sure to visit SportingKC.com/GameOn for the full match recap, video highlights, postgame quotes and more.


7:45PM on 8/27/13: Four hours after arriving, I've cracked the code and successfully connected to the internet. Time to launch the live chat at SportingKC.com/GameOn -- come join us there.



3:00PM on 8/27/13: Remember those isolated thunderstorms in the forecast? They're here. Lightning and thunder rolling through the area. Let's hope it's nothing like what last's week CCL match in Honduras experienced.


2:45PM on 8/27/13: CD Olimpia are one of only two teams in North America, Central America and the Caribbean to participate in all six CONCACAF Champions League tournaments since the new format was adopted for the 2008-09 edition, along with El Salvador's Isidro Metapan. The team reached the quartefinals during the 2010-11 tournament, their best ever finish, and have won four straight league titles to bring their all-time total to 27 since being founded in 1912. The team is currently in third place in Liga Nacional after four games with a 2-1-1 record. The club's campaign began on Aug. 11 and tonight's game will be their sixth in a 17-day span.

For all you need to know -- and more -- for tonight's matchup, check out the links below:


2:00PM on 8/27/13: Olimpia are tied with Sporting KC atop Group 2 with three points following their 1-0 win at Real Esteli FC last week. Midfielder Bayron Mendez scored the game's only goal in the opening minute of the second half on an assist from Ramiro Bruschi. Check out the highlights below:

CONCACAF previews tonight's match up in the video below. The match will be brodcast live in the United States on FOX Soccer Plus and streamed online via FOX Soccer 2Go (free 14-day trial) with Steve Cangialosi and Keith Costigan providing the commentary. Join the KC Cauldron at Johnny's Tavern in the Kansas CIty Power & Light District for a watch party.


12:30PM on 8/27/13: Graham Zusi played in Honduras earlier this year while with the U.S. Men's National Team and said that provides "invaluable experience" heading into tonight's match. Hear his thoughts below, including what he had to say about CD Olimpia and Honduras goalkeeper Noel Valladares.

 

In addition to Zusi's experience at the international level, Sporting KC forward Jacob Peterson played inside Estadio Nacional while with Toronto FC during the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League tournament. That match came against CD Motagua -- Olimpia's rivals with whom they share a stadium and will play on Sunday in Liga Nacional -- and Peterson briefly shared his thoughts on what he takes away from his previous trip to Tegucigalpa.


11:30AM on 8/27/13: Team brunch in the books. Pasta and chicken had a few takers, but it was the omelet station that once again proved most popular. Manager Peter Vermes addressed the team in a closed-door meeting after the meal and players turned in their passports for the mandatory pre-game check.

Earlier this morning, Sporting Kansas City equipment manager Mike Flaherty (@KitmanSKC on Twitter) and his assistant Andy Garay visited Escuela Guaymuras to deliver all of the school supplies and sports equipment donated prior to the trip. We'll post pictures a bit later on from their visit to the local school.

It's an overcast day in Tegucigalpa with a few morning showers and a chance of storms remaining in the forecast. The players will convene again mid-afternoon for a pre-game meal while all the equipment is taken to the stadium and set up ahead of their arrival. Until then, be sure to checkout Tod Palmer's match preview in today's Kansas City Star and listen to today's Snippets of Sporting podcast, which caught up with Matt Besler moments ago.



11:00AM on 8/27/13: This might be Sporting Kansas City's first trip to Tegucigalpa, but Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes has seen action in Estadio Nacional before. Vermes was a member of the U.S. Men's National Team squad that finished in second place at the 1989 CONCACAF Championship. The former U.S. international had a hand in the goal that defeated El Salvador 1-0 at Estadio Nacional and helped send the USMNT to their first World Cup in 40 years.


9:00AM on 8/27/13: Sporting Kansas City faces a Honduran club for the first time in team history tonight. However, Matt Besler and Graham Zusi have each faced Honduras twice this year on the international stage. In February, Zusi took the field in San Pedro Sula against CD Olimpia goalkeeper Noel Valladares and midfielder Luis Garrido in FIFA World Cup Qualifying. Then in June, Besler and Zusi were both in the starting lineup for the United States 1-0 win over Valladares and Honduras in the return qualifier. Most recently, Besler went the full 90 in the CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals against a Honduras side that featured a trio of CD Olimpia players in goalkeeper Donis Escober, defender Brayan Beckeles and the Honduran goal scorer on the day, Nery Medina.


7:30AM on 8/27/13: Gameday! Just over 12 hours until kickoff at Estadio Nacional, where CD Olimpia will be aiming for their first victory over an MLS club. That was the focus of today's two-page story in El Heraldo (available online here) in which head coach Juan Carlos Espinoza comments: "We must put a competitive team and try to make things go well. Normally the teams playing at home have the obligation to win and Olimpia is no exception. Kansas will play their last two games at home and have the advantage, so we definitely must try to get the result on our field and we hope to achieve this victory that can give us the chance to qualify."


11:15PM on 8/26/13: Grab some grub (salmon, chicken and/or pasta on the buffet menu). Load up on liquids (bottled water and gatorade have been readily available all day). And rest up for tomorrow. With the travel hurdle cleared, all activity now turns to preparation for peak performance. Players will receive treatments and massages first thing in the morning, though Jimmy Nielsen was already keeping his leg muscles loose with stimulus during the bus ride to the hotel.


10:30PM on 8/26/13: Hello from Honduras! A full day worth of travel later and Sporting KC is settling in for our 24-hour stay in Tegucigalpa. The team touched down at San Pedro Sula around 3:30 p.m. local time and boarded the bus for an arduous trek to the capital city. Early on in the expedition, it became clear the bumper-to-bumper traffic was more than your average rush hour delay. Vehicles were abandoned in the roadway as drivers stood around waiting for the congestion to clear and by all accounts, there appeared to be no escape. No alternate routes to reach our destination. And no maneuvering a charter bus through miles of mayhem...or so it appeared.

To set the scene: we're on a two-lane road winding through the countryside. One lane of traffic is lined up in each direction and the number of industrial sized vehicles seemed to outnumber your average automobiles. At times, there was an unpaved shoulder on one side of the road. At other times, there were steep drops just off the paved portion. Suffice to say, a motorcycle would have found the close confines challenging let alone a full-size coach. Nevertheless, our intrepid police escort led the way right through the heart of the traffic jam, parting just enough space -- literally inches in many instances -- for the driver to thread the needle through the middle of the now three-lane road. It was still slow going, to be sure, until we passed the culprit (an overturned 18-wheeler) but made all the difference in getting us to the hotel in time for a 10:30pm dinner instead of a midnight snack.


1:30PM on 8/26/13: Some light in-flight reading: game notes. Consider it a three-page crash course in Liga Nacional, CD Olimpia and Honduras all-in-one.

 

12:45PM on 8/26/13: Leg two, Honduras here we come.


12:30PM on 8/26/13: Here's our referee crew for tomorrow night, announced earlier today by CONCACAF.

Referee: Bejarano Henry CRC
AR 1: Leal Leonel CRC
AR 2: Innis Dion GUY
Fourth: Moore Sherwin GUY



11:45 AM on 8/26/13: Although the MLS transfer window has closed, the European transfer window is still impacting Sporting KC. Roger Rojas, Olimpia's leading goal scorer through the first four games of the season, has reportedly been loaned to West Ham United of the English Premier League. Rojas, a 23-year-old striker who has featured 18 times for the Honduran national team, is the second Olimpia player to leave the club in the past month after the Houston Dynamo signed midfielder Alex Lopez as a Young Designated Player. Any skepticism about the reports of Rojas going to West Ham? Well, #RojasWatch is in full effect!


10:45 AM on 8/26/13: CD Olimpia are no stranger to the CONCACAF Champions League with multiple appearances in the competition. Their best finish in the tournament (since it changed to the current format in 2008) is reaching the quarterfinals in the 2010-11 tournament. Ahead of Tuesday's match, check out By The Numbers for a statistical look at both sides.




8:00AM on 8/26/13: Many might be wondering, why is the team flying into San Pedro Sula instead of Tegucigalpa? There is an airport in the country's capital, after all. Well, it just so happens to be one of the most dangerous in the world to attempt a successful landing I've learned. So much so that the 15 most viewed videos when you search Tegucigalpa on YouTube are all airport related. See for yourself.


7:00AM on 8/26/13: Back in business. Sporting KC's CCL quest continues in Honduras as the top two teams in Group 2 face off on Tuesday night at Estadio Nacional in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. We've got a nearly identical itinerary as our trip to Central America earlier this month, albeit a new -- slightly closer -- destination: Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Check out the map below for a glimpse at where we're headed. And if all goes according to plan over the course of a 10-hour travel schedule, we'll be checking into the capital city by sunset!