Peter Vermes and players weigh in on upcoming Champions League challenge

Exactly four weeks remain until Sporting Kansas City kick off their 2019 season with a monumental showdown against Mexican club Deportivo Toluca FC in the first leg of the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Round of 16. Tickets for the Feb. 21 matchup at Children’s Mercy Park are now available at

With two shutout wins under their belts to open the 2019 preseason, presented by Children’s Mercy, Sporting KC are in full preparation mode for a daunting Champions League test that will require the side to play its earliest competitive match ever.

Sporting KC broadcaster Carter Augustine was with the team in Scottsdale, Arizona, this week to talk with Manager Peter Vermes and players about the upcoming Champions League challenge. Their remarks are in the space below.

Manager Peter Vermes:

“I think we have a good team. If we prepare well, we’ll give ourselves a good shot in that series. Obviously we have some hurdles to overcome in the fact that this will be our first real game [on Feb. 21]. And a week later we play at their place at [8,800 feet] altitude. All of those things are going to be hurdles, but I also think that we have the ability to overcome all of them.

“With a very consistent group returning, hopefully that will help us get back to the way we play very quickly and we’ll be able to deal with some situations that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to.”

Defender Matt Besler:

“The Champions League is what’s on our radar right now. We talk about all of the competitions this year and what we want to (accomplish), but the thing that’s in front of us right now is that first Champions League game. We’re preparing ourselves to get ready to play, and we want to try and take care of business in that game.

“We can talk about the scheduling and who we play and the pros and cons of it, but we know that we have a really good team. We’re going to put the work in and try to prepare ourselves to be as ready as possible. We’ll see what happens; we’re going to go out and leave it all on the field.”

Forward Krisztian Nemeth:

“It was a short (offseason) but I’m happy we can start the season in front of our fans. We want to make a successful Champions League (run), and let’s hope we can get to the final. To be honest, [our goal] is always to win trophies. But the first step is to win that home-and-away (series).”

Forward Erik Hurtado:

“Everyone’s looking forward to it. That’s our main focus right now—the first game of our season against a good Mexican side. It’s going to be a great atmosphere. It’s always our goal to win championships, and to be the first MLS team [to win the Champions League] would be history. Everyone wants to be a part of history, so that’s definitely in the back of our minds. We’re looking forward to that challenge.”

Forward Johnny Russell:

“We’re out here to win. It’s exciting for myself personally as well. I’ve never been involved in (the Champions League), so I’m excited to go different places and play different teams outside of the U.S. It’s looking positive and everything we do is geared toward that first game.”