#SKCvMTL Match Preview: Much-improved Montreal visit on Saturday

The most important series in Sporting Kansas City’s international history is just around the corner. On April 4 and 11, Manager Peter Vermes’ side will battle Mexican giants CF Monterrey in the 2019 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Semifinals. The second leg is slated for 8 p.m. CT on April 11 at Children’s Mercy Park, with tickets now on sale at SeatGeek.com.
In the buildup to this titanic clash, SportingKC.com is relaunching the Champions League Countdown to give readers a comprehensive look at Sporting’s semifinal opponent. This 10-part series, running from March 25 to April 3, will shed light on all things Monterrey—ranging from players to watch and recent performances to past history in the Champions League and more.

On Tuesday we got to know the best backline in Liga MX. On Wednesday we familiarized ourselves with a talented and dynamic midfield. This time around, the Champions League Countdown zones in on Monterrey’s forwards, who will hope to fire Rayados into the tournament finals at Sporting’s expense.

Possible Starters

Rogelio Funes Mori (age: 28)

Funes Mori kickstarted his career in unlikely fashion as the winner of Sueño MLS, a national tryout-turned TV series looking for the next best young and undiscovered soccer star. He parlayed his 2008 success into a shot with the FC Dallas Academy before making the jump to River Plate in his native Argentina the following year.

The rest, as they say, is history. Funes Mori, the twin brother of Argentine international Ruben Funes Mori, has scored north of 100 professional goals over the last decade, including 65 strikes in 122 Liga MX appearances for Monterrey. The 28-year-old is currently third on the 2019 Clausura charts with eight goals, four more than any other Rayados player. He has yet to open his account in the Champions League, however, and will be hungry to do so against Sporting.

Dorlan Pabon (age: 31; Colombian international)

Like Funes Mori, Pabon has grown accustomed to racking up goals at the Liga MX level. He has scored more than 100 times since turning professional in 2006 and has 69 goals across two separate stints with Rayados. The 31-year-old, who earned 15 caps for Colombia from 2009-2012, has three league goals this season to go with his game-clinching strike in a 3-0 first-leg win over Atlanta in the Champions League Quarterfinals earlier this month.

Attacking Depth

Aviles Hurtado (age: 31; Colombian international)

As mentioned in our Monterrey midfield preview, the 31-year-old Hurtado can be deployed as an attacking midfielder, winger or forward. He patrolled left midfield in Monterrey’s 3-0 first-leg win over Atlanta earlier this month before starting as a forward in the return leg on March 13. He is tied for the team lead with 11 shot attempts in the Champions League, and regardless of where he is stationed against Sporting, he’s a safe bet to be involved going forward.

Rodolfo Pizarro (age: 25; Mexican international)

Pizarro is capable of playing in the midfield or on the wing. We’ve grouped him among the forwards, but it’s conceivable that the 25-year-old Mexican assumes a midfield role against Sporting. He has one goal in five Liga MX starts this season and started in Monterrey’s second-leg loss at Atlanta on March 13.

Angel Zaldivar (age: 25)

On loan from Guadalajara, where he has tallied 21 goals since 2013, Zaldivar has scored once in eight appearances during his first stint with Rayados. The Mexican featured in both Round of 16 matches against Alianza last month but was uninvolved in the quarterfinal series versus Atlanta.

Adam Bareiro (age: 22)

The Paraguayan youngster joined Monterrey in January after bagging 26 goals in 69 games for Nacional Asuncion, but he has yet to make his mark with Rayados. The 22-year-old has started one of three Liga MX matches and featured in the final minutes of Monterrey’s 0-0 draw at Alianza in the Round of 16 first leg last month.