Sporting Kansas City put together a resounding performance on Thursday night, defeating Liga MX's Toluca , by the score of 3-0 in the first leg of their Round of 16 tie in the Concacaf Champions League.
After the talk leading up to the match primarily focusing on Toluca being in the middled of their season, compared to Sporting being over a week away from the start of theirs, fitness ended up not being much of a factor at all.
“There’s no doubt that the ability for us to play through at times, as good of a team at Toluca is, was pretty impressive.,” Peter Vermes said after the match. “But at the end of the day you have to commend our guys. We have quality players on our team, and they’ve worked very, very hard.”
Vermes continued, outlining the level of work that his team put in to get ready for this match.
“Ever since the last game last year, they knew what was in front of us. We had a big talk about it, we laid out a plan physically while they were in their offseason. And then they did the work. We started a little bit earlier than we normally would’ve. I think we’ve had the best preseason we’ve ever had. I commend the players for that. Because at the end of the day, if they don’t come to work every day, you don’t have the best preseason.”
Sporting’s attack took a little bit to get into the game, as Toluca had been trying to press them high and force them into a couple of traps. But then, Matt Besler played an inch-perfect ball over the top of the defense to the speedy Gerso Fernandes. Gerso brought it down and it eventually ended up on the foot of Krisztian Nemeth, who slotted home to give Sporting KC the 1-0 lead.
Gerso and Nemeth combined exceptionally well on the left hand side, and with an aggressive and overlapping Seth Sinovic, Just a few minutes on the other side of halftime, it was Nemeth and Gerso hooking up again to make it 2-0.
“The whole preseason,” Nemeth said postgame discussing the relationship, “I think the three of us, Johnny [Russell], Gerso, and also Daniel Salloi, the four of us can play really well. And tonight, I’m happy we could show that.”
The dynamic between those four is likely the key to Sporting’s season. And if their first match is any indication, they look like they’ll be quite alright. Nemeth highlighted how important it was for them to get off to a good start.
“It’s always important,” said Nemeth. “That’s why we train for six weeks really hard. We are happy with the positive start, but it’s not over yet. It’s just one game in the season. We have a lot of games. We have to keep working hard. I think the results will come this year for us.”