Sporting Kansas City's 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League run came to an end Thursday night with a 2-0 loss to Deportivo Saprissa at Estadio Ricardo Saprissa in San Jose, Costa Rica. Saprissa and Sporting KC each finished the group stage with seven points, but the Costa Rican side will advance to the quarterfinal round based on the tiebreaker rules. Sporting KC and Saprissa each finished with a 0 goal differential in matches between the two sides, but Saprissa had the edge on away goals in matches between the two sides, scoring one goal at Sporting Park on September 18.
Sporting KC went into Thursday's match in the driver's seat of the group. With a win, a tie or a one-goal loss, the defending MLS Cup champions would have advanced to the knockout stages of the tournament.
The home side made things difficult early, however. Sporting KC goalkeeper Eric Kronberg was called into action in the 15th minute when Juan Bustos picked up an errant clearance and volleyed a strike to the near post. The veteran goalkeeper dove to his left and punched the ball away from goal.
With more than 20,000 fans in attendance, Saprissa struck first in the 23rd minute off a set piece. Bustos whipped in a ball that was headed toward the goal. Kronberg dropped low to block the first attempt, but Heiner Mora cleaned up the rebound to put the home side ahead.
Sporting KC's luck turned from bad to worse moments later when 2010 World Cup veteran Benny Feilhaber and 19-year-old defender Igor Juliao were forced out the game with injuries. Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes replaced Feilhaber and Juliao with Soony Saad and Jacob Peterson, respectively.
Despite conceding a goal and suffering two injuries, Sporting KC took a 1-0 deficit into the half, a result good enough to advance through to the next round. That score was short-lived, however. Less than a minute into the second half, Mora squared a pass to an open Ariel Rodriguez at the six-yard box. The Costa Rican international made no mistake, poking the ball past Kronberg for his fifth goal of the tournament.
Kronberg was called into action often in the second and responded well. The California native made a one-handed save on a Rodriguez shot in the 63rd minute, stopped a David Ramirez breakaway in the 64th minute and tipped a Marvin Angulo free kick over the bar in the 80th minute.
Sporting KC's best opportunity of the night came in the 66th minute through striker Soony Saad. The Lebanon international turned a defender and curled a shot toward the far post. Goalkeeper Donny Grant made the save and held on to the ball despite an onrushing Dom Dwyer.
Sporting KC will resume MLS play Sunday night when they host the New York Red Bulls at Sporting Park in the last game of the 2014 MLS regular season. The match will kick off at 7:30 p.m. CT and will be broadcast on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes. Sporting KC currently sits in fourth place in the Eastern Conference and would lock up the No. 3 seed and a spot in the Eastern Conference Semifinals with a win on Sunday.
2014/15 CONCACAF Champions League
Group Stage: Sporting KC Matchday 4 of 4
Estadio Ricardo Saprissa Ayma | San Jose, Costa Rica
Weather: 73 degrees and cloudy
|Sporting KC (2-1-1, 7 pt)||0||0||0|
|Deportivo Saprissa (2-1-1, 7 pts)||1||1||2|
Sporting Kansas City: Eric Kronberg; Igor Juliao (Jacob Peterson 45), Aurelien Collin, Kevin Ellis, Seth Sinovic; Jorge Claros, Lawrence Olum, Benny Feilhaber (C) (Soony Saad 41); Antonio Dovale, Claudio Bieler (Dom Dwyer 65), C.J. Sapong
Subs Not Used: Jon Kempin, Mikey Lopez, Paulo Nagamura, Sal Zizzo
Deportivo Saprissa: Donny Grant; Heiner Mora, Adolfo Machado, Alexander Robinson; Rafael Morales, Juan Golobio, Keilor Soto, David Guzman, Deyver Vega (Gabriel Badilla 86), Carlos Saucedo (David Ramirez 59), Ariel Rodriguez (Marvin Angulo 70)
Subs Not Used: Diego Estrada, Kevin Briceno, Mynor Escoe, Daniel Colindres
|Shots on Goal||7||1|
SAP -- Adolfo Machado (caution; reckless foul) 20
SKC -- Aurelien Collin (caution; reckless foul) 35
SAP -- David Guzman (caution: dissent) 74
SAP -- Donny Grant (caution: time wasting) 78
SKC -- Kevin Ellis (caution: reckless foul) 89
SAP -- Heiner Mora 22
SAP -- Ariel Rodriguez (Heiner Mora) 46