Sporting KC hang on in CCL opener, draw with Real Esteli

Toni Dovale

Photo by USA Today Sports Images

By TATE STEINLAGE 

Some 1,800 miles away from Sporting Park in Esteli, Nicaragua, Sporting Kansas City had one mission: survive.

The reigning MLS Cup champions did just that Tuesday against Real Esteli FC in CONCACAF Champions League action, though the performance was anything but easy — or pretty. Sporting KC battled back from a 1-0 deficit to earn a 1-1 draw at the tiny but fervent Estadio Independencia.

Toni Dovale scored the equalizer for Sporting KC, a 16th minute wonder strike off a free kick, but 21-year-old goalkeeper Jon Kempin provided the heroics late, making save after save to keep his side above water in Group 2.

“Nothing changes when we play,” Vermes said about the match in a post-game teleconference. “We want to go and get three points. There’s a lot of things within the game that wound up being very difficult. It was not an easy game to play for a number of reasons.

“At the end, to come here and get a point from them in their place, it’s good. We just got to make sure we take care of business at home. We wanted to get three, obviously we didn’t, but we walk away with points at their place.”

Real Esteli opened the scoring six minutes into the match on an own goal from Sporting KC midfielder Jorge Claros. Kempin denied the initial shot from Daniel Da Silva in front of goal, but the follow up took an unfortunate bounce off Claros’ leg and into the back of the net. It was a magic moment for the home crowd, which has never witnessed their club win in this tournament. 

The cheers drowned out, momentarily at least, 10 minutes later when Dovale bended his free kick into the back of the net to pull Sporting KC equal. Real Esteli goalkeeper Justo Llorente was frozen on the shot as Dovale rushed to the corner to celebrate.

Sporting KC pushed for a second before halftime, but the quality in the final third lacked as Real Esteli focused on countering attack after attack.

The second half lacked the up-tempo style the opening 45 minutes provided, perhaps due to a mix of humidity, physicality, and pitch surface — all three of which Vermes noted in his post-game comments.

“I think the management of the game was horrendous, I really do,” Vermes said. “I don’t even have to go too deep into it.

“We threw the ball in, and we’re right behind it, and the referee calls offside. There’s no offside on a throw in.

“From the opening whistle there was a lack of ability on their part. They (officials) had a very, very poor game, and it’s unfortunate, especially for the guys up front, who kept getting beat up and the referee did nothing to protect them.”

Days after making his first starting in Major League Soccer, Kempin helped keep Real Esteli from netting a second tally. The goalkeeper made a handful of impressive plays, but none more important than his efforts in the 81st and 82nd minutes on shots that appeared to be sure-strikes.

“He was good,” Vermes said about Kempin. “I think he had a decent game. There’s not much else to say, he had to make some saves here and there but he was good tonight.”

With the result, Real Esteli move into first place in Group 2 with two points after two group stage matches. Sporting KC earn a tough road point in their CCL opener, and now must turn their attention back to MLS action and a home match against D.C. United set for Saturday at Sporting Park.

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16 Responses to Sporting KC hang on in CCL opener, draw with Real Esteli

  1. Itsa me, Mario Gomez says:

    Dovale’s free-kick was exquisite. Too bad my neice could beat him to death. What a wuss.

  2. With the line up Sporting KC put out there they should have steam rolled these minnows, regardless of the pitch, humidity, etc. The Mexican clubs never have problems shelling these sort of teams even with reserve squads.

    • Yevgeniy says:

      Did you see Cruz Azul’s results so far?

      • beto says:

        Yup Cruz Azul looks pretty bad both league and champions league. I dont see them getting past Alajuelense.

        SKC really hurt their chances with this draw. Basicly they are now head to head with Saprissa – 50/50 at best

        • Gary Page says:

          Any time you are playing in a home and home group format, if you draw on the road and win at home, you are pretty much guaranteed a spot in the knock out rounds. This was really a loss for the home side and a win for Sporting KC.

  3. Brain Guy says:

    I have no reason to doubt that the officials and the pitch were awful, but Vermes’s habit of complaining, loudly, about every single decision leads me take all this with a big grain of salt.

    • Nani Appleseed says:

      A joke competition. A road draw has “screwed” SKC. What is the point of winning a scam like this? It is a matter of time before a top MLS player gets a 6 month injury in this bs, and that will be the end of the worthless exercise.

      • Ian says:

        I like the CCL. And it’s our ticket to the Club World Cup, which is a fun little tournament and the only way an MLS team will every play a UEFA team in a competitive match. CCL needs a lot of work, but it shouldn’t be scrapped.

      • Spear says:

        Now you know how Pep feels.
        A better, more understandable reason not to play this tournament would be the Mexican teams total dominance. They’re the ones with nothing to gain out of it.

      • Quit Whining About Soccer in the US says:

        How Pep feels ? Like a total jack-a if he has a clue at all.

        Those that don’t want CCL are simple. The Mexican dominance will be replaced by US dominance soon enough, enjoy the rivalry while you can like the REAL fans do every year.

      • Quit Whining About Soccer in the US says:

        Man, what a bunch of whiners.

    • Gary Page says:

      Calling an off sides on a throw in, if that was the call, shows basic ignorance of the rules or a definite bias on the part of the official. This is much more egregious than a bad call on an iffy tackle, which is strictly a question of judgment, or placement of the official.

  4. beachbum says:

    if you watched the game you know that the field was a complete joke but nothing new as far as that’s concerned. the officiating was what you get in these early matchups…a complete joke but nothing new as far as that’s concerned. REsteli’s game plan was to muck it up and the ref complied; somehow SKC was called for the same number of fouls as the home team.

    all that said, SKC didn’t play that well against a team that has never won a CCL game.