Sporting Kansas City have been methodical in approaching the early part of their 2019 season, which includes a run in the 2019 Concacaf Champions League. The only MLS team this year to reach the semifinal round, they knew the challenge at hand but were confident coming into their series against Liga MX powerhouse Monterrey they could give their all and become the first American team since Real Salt Lake in 2011 to reach the Champions League final.
Unfortunately, those aspirations took what may be a fatal blow on Thursday, as Monterrey blitzed Sporting by a 5-0 scoreline in the semifinal first leg at Estadio BBVA Bancomer in Guadalupe, Mexico.
Immediately after the game, Sporting head coach Peter Vermes told reporters on a conference call that turnovers were lethal for his side in the game.
"We gave it up in critical areas, and the difference is they took advantage of each of the opportunities where we coughed the ball up in bad places, or were not good with the ball, and then [they] ran and scored, they were relentless at it," he explained.
While Sporting pushed the tempo in the opening minutes and spent plenty of time in Monterrey's box with the ball, the Rayados found an early goal, courtesy of captain Dorlan Pabon in the seventh minute, and never looked back. Another goal inside of 15 minutes played deflated Kansas City's early resolve, and Monterrey showed why they are considered a CCL favorite with a clinical performance.
Vermes believed Monterrey's mindset and Sporting's shortcomings on the night did his team in.
"They had an incredible desire and intensity to do that and if you had to ask me for one reason, that in itself," he said, paying tribute to the opponent. "Positionally we were poor, we left ourselves exposed, and then when you don't keep the ball in those moments and you're not going to because you're not positioned well, a team like that will crush you, and they did."
Sporting aren't eliminated in Champions League yet, and if anything could give them hope, it's replicating a record-setting 7-1 win they put up on Saturday in league play against Montreal. Vermes admitted his team didn't have much time to think about the second leg next week, especially with an MLS game on the road at FC Cincinnati on Sunday (2 p.m. CT | ESPN).
"There's not much time here to think about a lot of thoughts other than to get back to playing, because you've got another game coming up. And then you have obviously another Champions League game coming up as well on Thursday. So there's not a lot of time to sit back and think about it, that's for sure," he said.