KANSAS CITY, Kan. — For every speck of momentum Sporting KC could find in the second leg of the Concacaf Champions Leaugue semifinals, Monterey found a way to smother it. After a 5-0 beatdown in the first leg in Mexico, SKC had its work cut out, needing an absurd, historical win to advance in the tournament. Instead, Kansas City mustered a slightly more respectable 5-2 loss and closed out its CCL campaign.
Monterrey gave Kansas City just enough room to make it interesting early but closed the gap at will. SKC scored in the sixth minute, off a Gerso Fernandes goal via Johnny Russell’s chip in from the side. It was exactly the kind of start SKC would have drawn up, needing such a large assortment of goals to advance.
But for each step Kansas City took, Monterrey was there to steal back any hint of momentum. Fourteen minutes after Fernandes’ opening goal, Monterrey’s Rogelio Funes Mori took Seth Sinovic one-on-one down the far flank. With the amount of space he had, it was hard to see a scenario where SKC would have stopped Mori’s shot. And it didn’t. Monterrey tied the match on that goal in the 20th minute (and notched an away goal).
“I think we’re in the game other than giving up two very soft goals early and that was the difference in the game,” SKC manager Peter Vermes said. “Since the first goal went in, you could see we were deflated.”
“When we scored the first goal – that was our game plan, to score the first goal right away,” SKC midfielder Roger Espinoza said. “I think the [first] goal we gave up, it kind of killed a lot of the hope.”
Sporting KC took 11 shots total in the first half, four of them on goal. In a match during in which it had to score at least five goals, it scored twice in that first period.
But with each shift that gave SKC even an inch of a chance in what needed to mount a historical comeback, Monterrey languidly collected it back.
Fernandes notched his second goal in the 29th minute, capitalizing off a rebound after Monterrey goalkeeper Marcelo Barovero dived to block Russell’s shot.
Again, the advantage didn’t stick. Rodolfo Pizarro nudged his shot past SKC goalkeeper Tim Melia in the 39th minute, introducing another draw.
It was a see-saw of a half when Kansas City needed a landslide. Every little spark SKC could muster, Monterrey stomped it out.
And it didn’t help that it missed its free chances: Barovero dived to the correct side when Ilie Sanchez took a penalty kick in the 45th minute. That denial blocked SKC’s shot to take a one-goal lead late in the first half. But even a one-goal margin still would have felt like a smidgen against a steamroller of a Monterrey team, in a match needing an unprecedented level of perfection from the home team.
By the time the second half began, SKC would have needed six more goals to advance. And that was assuming they could hold Monterrey scoreless for that amount of time. Instead, Monterrey added a beauty of a direct-kick goal in the 61st minute to suffocate any scrap of wild, second-half hope.
Aviles Hurtado added a goal in the 82nd minute that expertly curled between Melia’s hand and the back corner of the net. And Monterrey piled on in the final minute to set the 5-2 final.
“When you give up soft goals like we did … you just can’t give up soft goals like that,” Vermes said. “We’ve done that twice against this team and that hurt us.”
From here, Monterrey will stampede into the CCL finals, while SKC turns its focus to the rest of the MLS season. Kansas City will play the New York Red Bulls Sunday at home.