Five Things, presented by Keith + Associates Dentistry, is a weekly series on SportingKC.com that highlights the top storylines, players to watch and matchday programming ahead of each game throughout the season.
Sporting Kansas City have their sights set on a comeback for the ages heading into the decisive second leg of the Concacaf Champions League Semifinals against Mexican outfit CF Monterrey, slated for 8 p.m. CT Thursday at Children’s Mercy Park.
After dropping the first leg 5-0 on Mexican soil last week, Manager Peter Vermes’ side will hope a vibrant home atmosphere helps ignite a major turnaround that sends shockwaves throughout the soccer world.
Tickets for Thursday’s contest are included in Season Ticket Member packages and remain available at SeatGeek.com as Sporting hosts a semifinal match in the Concacaf Champions League for the first time. With that in mind, here are five things to know about the monumental matchup.
1. On the Ropes
Down but not out, Sporting has no choice but to destroy Monterrey in order to reach the finals. Winning by six or more goals would do the trick. Rayados, meanwhile, can advance with a win, a tie, a loss by four or fewer goals, or a five-goal loss in which they score at least once (6-1, 7-2, etc.).
If Sporting defeats Rayados by a 5-0 scoreline, the teams will be level on aggregate and on the away goals tiebreaker. This scenario would send the clubs straight into a penalty shootout—no extra time will be played—to decide the series winner.
2. History Lesson
Sporting’s 5-0 hole begs the question: has a team ever reversed a five-goal first-leg deficit to win a series? Nope, not in the 57-year history of the Concacaf Champions’ Cup and Concacaf Champions League. In fact, no club has ever reversed a four-goal deficit in the first leg to win a series either.
North America’s premier club competition has seen a team come back from a three-goal first-leg deficit on six occasions. It most recently happened in 2015 when Club America overturned a 3-0 loss at Honduran side Olimpia with a 6-0 home win in the second leg of the quarterfinals.
3. Reasons to Believe
The task may be tall, but Manager Peter Vermes’ men can point to a few favorable facts as they prepare for an epic fightback. Firstly, Sporting have been absolutely rampant at Children’s Mercy Park this season, winning all four games while outscoring opponents 15-1. That includes 3-0 wins over Toluca and Independiente in the Champions League and a 7-1 drubbing of the Montreal Impact (refresher below) on March 30. Beat Monterrey by the same scoreline, and they’ll be through to the finals.
Moreover, Monterrey are coming off a 5-1 Liga MX defeat at Toluca on Sunday. In case you forgot, Sporting beat Toluca 5-0 on aggregate in the Round of 16. Apply the transitive property to this particular situation, and the idea of a comeback becomes a bit more conceivable. Rayados aren’t in remarkable form, either, as their only win over the last six competitive matches came against Sporting.
4. What’s at Stake
Sporting are trying to make two-fold history: pull off the greatest comeback in Champions League history and reach the tournament finals for the first time ever. If the hosts can somehow overcome Monterrey, their dreams of becoming the first MLS club to win the title and progress to the Club World Cup remain intact.
Rayados are on a different path. They have already competed at a Club World Cup, finishing third in 2012, and won three straight Champions League titles from 2011-2013. A fourth tournament triumph would cement Monterrey as a modern-day powerhouse in the Concacaf region.
5. How to Watch
Can’t make it to Children’s Mercy Park on Thursday? Worry not, as the match will stream live in English on YahooSports.com and the Yahoo Sports app while airing live in Spanish on Univision Deportes. Listeners can also catch the action live locally on Sports Radio 810 WHB (English) and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM (Spanish), with The Final Whistle postgame show immediately following on 810 WHB.
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