Sporting Kansas City’s bid to become the first MLS team to win the Concacaf Champions League officially came to an end on Thursday night, but not without a few teachable moments.
Trailing Monterrey 5-0 after the first leg, Sporting came out firing, and Gerso Fernandes got them on the board within the first six minutes. They even had a few chances within the opening 20 minutes to really make it interesting, score another goal or two, and maybe make Monterrey nervous.
Instead, Rogelio Funes Mori equalized in the 20th minute on a relatively soft goal, and gradually Monterrey grew into the game. Ultimately, Kansas City dropped the second leg 5-2 and the semifinal 10-2 on aggregate, leaving head coach Peter Vermes to lament the impossible hole his side dug itself in the first leg in Mexico.
“First off, you can’t put yourself in the deficit that we did, going down there, number one,” Vermes said. “No. 2, you have to be much tougher in that you don’t give away soft goals like we did. We gave away soft goals there, we gave soft goals here tonight. The first two were just ridiculous. When you do that, playing against a team that’s good, they’re going to score. Simple.”
Even with a perfect effort, knocking off Los Rayados over two legs was always going to be difficult for SKC. Before the semifinal, Vermes even suggested it would take near-perfection, citing his opponent's roster strength all over the field.
After Thursday's defeat, Sporting midfielder Roger Espinoza said that if the semifinal teaches his team anything, it should be the need for ruthlessness in the final third on the continental stage.
“When you get to this stage in the semifinals, you have to be lethal,” Espinoza said. “Especially when you play Mexican teams that have guys that are big names, and they can finish the game right away.”
So where do Kansas City go from here? Back into MLS, where they're unbeaten in four matches and very well may be in contention to return to the Champions League in 2020.
“We have to take that experience and get better,” Espinoza said. “Hopefully next season we’re in it again, and we’ll be able to get to another level.”