The most important series in Sporting Kansas City’s international history is just around the corner. On April 4 and 11, Manager Peter Vermes’ side will battle Mexican giants CF Monterrey in the 2019 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Semifinals. The second leg is slated for 8 p.m. CT on April 11 at Children’s Mercy Park, with tickets now on sale at SeatGeek.com.
In the buildup to this titanic clash, SportingKC.com is relaunching the Champions League Countdown to give readers a comprehensive look at Sporting’s semifinal opponent. This 10-part series, running from March 25 to April 3, will shed light on all things Monterrey—ranging from players to watch and recent performances to past history in the Champions League and more.
If Sporting Kansas City wants to become Major League Soccer's first club to achieve Concacaf Champions League glory, they will first have to go through one of the tournament's most historically dominant teams.
Since the competition's modern era began in 2008, no side has claimed more Concacaf Champions League titles than the three belonging to CF Monterrey. The Liga MX powerhouse has experienced unprecedented success in the Champions League, taking the crown in three of its four appearances.
Will Monterrey add a fourth continental championship to their trophy case in 2019? Sporting will do everything in their power to prevent such an occurrence, but the fact of the matter is this: history is on Monterrey's side.
Led by 43-year-old manager Diego Alonso, who won the Champions League with Pachuca in 2017, Monterrey boasts a deep and talented squad that remains in contention for silverware this spring both domestically and internationally. And they just might have the pieces in place to write the next victorious chapter of their Champions League history, which is outlined below.
Monterrey in the Champions League
(modern era since 2008)
|2016-17||Eliminated in group stage||2-2-0||9||5||1-1-0||1-1-0|
Let's stop and unpack this for a minute. In five total Champions League appearances, Monterrey owns a remarkable 29-6-7 record and a 17-2-2 mark at home. They have outscored opponents 83-28 in 42 matches, having conducted their business as tournament invincibles until their unforeseen group stage exit in 2016.
Nicknamed Los Rayados—translated as "The Striped Ones" in accordance with their striped jerseys—Monterrey wields an unmatched Champions League resume, although six years have passed since the club last ruled the tournament. Below is a snapshot of Rayados' previous four Champions League showings.
2010-11: Champions for the First Time
Monterrey began their Champions League dynasty with coach Victor Manuel Vucetich at the helm. They booked their first appearance in the competition as 2009 Liga MX Apertura winners and promptly cashed in. After finishing atop a group that included Seattle Sounders FC, Rayados defeated Mexican rivals Toluca and Cruz Azul in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively, to book a date with Real Salt Lake in the finals.
RSL went agonizingly close to winning the Champions League before the CCL monkey on Major League Soccer's back began to grow, earning a 2-2 first-leg draw in Monterrey. However, Rayados stemmed the upset bid with a 1-0 win at Rio Tinto Stadium on April 27, 2011, taking the lead through serial goal scorer Humberto Suazo on the stroke of halftime.
2011-12: Twice as Nice
Suazo and Monterrey kept their clamp on the Champions League the following year. The Chilean finished as the 2011-12 tournament's top scorer with seven of Monterrey's 25 goals over the course of 12 games. After navigating the group stage in pedestrian fashion—Rayados finished first but suffered a home loss to Seattle—Monterrey caught fire in the knockout rounds.
Suazo bagged four goals in a 7-2 aggregate win over Morelia in the quarterfinals. He then passed the torch to Aldo de Nigris, who scored twice in a 4-2 aggregate defeat of city rivals Tigres UANM in the semifinals. That sent Rayados to the finals, where they would edge Santos Laguna by the slimmest of margins. Suazo struck twice in a 2-0 first-leg win, but Santos Laguna held a 2-0 lead of their own late in the second leg. With the series level at 2-2 on aggregate, Argentine Neri Cardozo bagged a dramatic Monterrey winner in the 82nd minute.
2012-13: A Dynasty is Born
Vucetich's third straight title was attained with utter dominance. Rayados finished the 2012-13 tournament with an 8-0-2 record while outscoring opponents 26-5. After blistering hapless group stage foes CSD Municipal and Chorrillo FC, Monterrey breezed past Guatemalan side Xelaju and the LA Galaxy to set up a finals rematch with Santos Laguna.
After a cagey scoreless draw in the first leg at Estadio Corona, the sides descended on the now-demolished Estadio Tecnologico for an all-time epic on May 1, 2013. Santos Laguna surged ahead 2-0 on goals from Darwin Quintero and Felipe Baloy, but the hosts staged a stunning rally over the last half-hour. De Nigris pulled one back in the 60th minute, then fired his side ahead three minutes after Cardozo's 84th-minute equalizer. Suazo sealed the comeback and a 4-2 aggregate win in second-half stoppage time.
2016-17: Group Stage Disappointment
By the time Monterrey returned to the Champions League in 2016, Vucetich had departed and the team's core looked distinctly different. Two upset losses to Panamanian outfit Arabe Unido, including a 3-2 shocker at Rayados' new Estadio BBVA Bancomer, led to a second-place finish in the group stage and early elimination.