Sporting Kansas City and Deportivo Toluca FC are on a collision course, the outcome of which will be decided when the clubs meet in the 2019 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Round of 16. Sporting will host the first leg of the aggregate-goal series on Feb. 21 at Children’s Mercy Park (get your tickets here) before venturing to Mexico for the decisive second leg on Feb. 28.
In the buildup to this titanic battle, SportingKC.com will provide weekly updates on Los Diablos Rojos as part of the site’s Tracking Toluca series. For more information about North America’s premier club tournament, visit our 2019 Champions League page.
On the same day that Sporting Kansas City traveled to Arizona for the start of their 2019 preseason, presented by Children's Mercy, Deportivo Toluca FC grabbed an early lead atop the Liga MX Clausura standings with a 2-0 home win over Puebla at Estadio Nemesio Diez.
Left back Santiago Garcia struck two minutes before halftime and midfielder Alexis Canelo sealed the result in the 81st minute as Los Diablos Rojos claimed their second straight victory of the Clausura campaign.
A pedestrian first half burst to life in the 43rd minute when Canelo's header off an in-swinging corner kick was cleared off the goal line by a Puebla defender, but Garcia was on hand to smash home the rebound and give the hosts a 1-0 lead.
Puebla seldom tested 36-year-old Toluca goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera, who was forced to make just two saves on the day, and the visitors' bid for a result worsened in the 74th minute when midfielder Christian Tabo received a straight red card.
Toluca secured the three points nine minutes from time on a swift counter attack, with Canelo running onto a pass from substitute Leonel Lopez and finishing low into the far right corner from a tight angle.
Manager Hernan Cristante, who coached his 100th match for Toluca in last Friday's 3-1 away win against Morelia, made just one change to his lineup on Sunday. Right back Rodrigo Salinas, who served a red card suspension at Morelia, replaced Richard Ruiz and helped anchor a Toluca backline that kept its first clean sheet since October 2018.
Starting XI in 4-2-3-1 formation (R-L): Alfredo Talavera; Rodrigo Salinas, Osvaldo Gonzalez, Adrian Mora, Santiago Garcia; Antonio Rios, William (Leonel Lopez 70); Luis Mendoza (Felipe Pardo 63), Pablo Barrientos, Alexis Canelo; Enrique Triverio (Diego Abella 84)
Subs not used: Luis Garcia, Omar Tobio, Cristian Borja, Carlos Esquivel
Toluca will aim to continue their winning ways in Liga MX next Sunday, Jan. 20, with a trip to reigning Concacaf Champions League winner Chivas de Guadalajara. The 6 p.m. CT matchup will air live in the United States on ESPN Deportes and stream on WatchESPN.
Like Toluca, Chivas have opened the Clausura season with two victories on the trot. Guadalajara head coach Jose Cardozo, who is coincidentally Toluca's all-time leading scorer, led his side to a 2-0 triumph over Tijuana on Jan. 5 before orchestrating an impressive 1-0 road win at Cruz Azul on Saturday.
Toluca Statistics (2019 Liga MX Clausura)
Record: 2-0-0, 6 points (1-0-0 home; 1-0-0 away)
Table: 1st in Liga MX
Goals for: 5
Goals against: 1