They’re joined in that final four by Mexican sides Monterrey, Santos Laguna and Tigres UANL after Atlanta United, the Houston Dynamo and New York Red Bulls all lost to their respective opponents.
But as the last MLS team standing, Sporting captain Matt Besler doesn’t feel like they’re “carrying the flag” for the rest of MLS in this tournament.
“We’re focused on us,” Besler said. “We are confident in the team that we have, with the way that we’re playing right now. We know it’s going to be extremely difficult because it’s not just MLS vs. Liga MX. It’s more of us vs. three other really good teams. That’s the way we’re looking at it.”
Sporting KC have already dispatched one Liga MX opponent, beating Toluca 5-0 on aggregate in the round of 16, including a second-leg performance dominant enough to inspire the traditional “Olé” chants from Toluca’s supporters taunted at their own team.
Granted, Toluca were and are in the midst of turmoil; they hadn’t won since January, and scored just one goal from Jan. 4 through their matchup with Sporting KC. Monterrey will certainly pose a different, and more difficult task. Besler highlighted their current run of form, and overall said he’s been very impressed with Monterrey.
“We’ve been following along in the tournament,” Besler said. “It’s been fun to watch the other MLS teams and just see the tournament progress. I’m impressed with the way that Monterrey plays. It’s going to be a team that we’re going to have respect for.”
Besler highlighted Los Rayados’ current success as well as the club’s experience in lifting the CCL trophy before: The club won three consecutive editions of the competition from 2010-13.
“They’ve been there and they’ve done it before, and we haven’t,” said Besler. “They’re also a team that’s playing extremely well right now. I believe they have an unbeaten streak going now within the league...It’s going to be a major challenge, but something we’re looking forward to.”
While Monterrey will certainly have Sporting’s attention, Johnny Russell pointed out they’ve got some MLS action to handle before they can really relish the challenge.
“We’ve got league games to attend to before that,” Russell said. “But it’s another exciting one, someone else to go and play. Hopefully we can get a result that gets us into the finals as well.”