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Sporting KC to Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals after toppling Toluca

Sporting Kansas City midfielder Ilie Sanchez (6) is congratulated by teammates Johnny Russell (7), Matt Besler (5) and Brad Evans (4) after his goal during the second half of a CONCACAF soccer match against Toluca in Kansas City, Kan., Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

The “Ole”s rained down Thursday night in Toluca — but they weren’t for the home team. 

Sporting KC finished off a dominant Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 tie, beating Deportivo Toluca FC at Estadio Nemesio Diez, 2-0. The second-leg victory piled onto Kansas City’s aggregate score, after last week’s 3-0 home win over Toluca. By the end of the night, Toluca’s fans had seemingly turned on its team and were actively cheering for Kansas City at points in the second half, as heard on the TV broadcast. 

It was already going to be a long uphill for Toluca because of the aggregate. But the series was nearly assured by the eighth minute. Roger Espinoza took possession near the midfield circle and launched a perfect ball across his body and over the top of the defense. That ball fell just a few yards ahead of an in-stride Gerso Fernandes, who also scored in last week’s first leg. Fernandes caught up to Espinoza’s pass a tick ahead of the defense, shifted the ball to his right, and launched a shot past the keeper, who had already come off his line to challenge.

By the time Fernandes’ shot blasted into the net, it was going to be all but impossible for Toluca to climb back within striking distance. It would have had to score five goals to win the series, a wide margin that demonstrated just how dominant SKC has been these past two weeks.

They piled on in the 62nd minute, with Krisztian Nemeth drawing a penalty and a straight red card on his defender. Nemeth took a ball from the near side and saw yards of open space in front of him. But as he charged towards goal, Toluca’s defender dragged him down by his arm in the box.

That play gave fans a chance to see who SKC is expecting to take penalty kicks this year. Ilie Sanchez pulled that duty last season, but it was Nemeth who stepped to the spot Thursday. He smoothly chipped his kick over the keeper, cementing SKC’s 2-0 win on the night, and 5-0 aggregate advantage. 

What might have been the craziest part of the night, though, came via the stands. Fans started using their own “Ole” chant during Kansas City’s passes late in the second half. Fans also seemed to cheer for Johnny Russell, as he was subbed out. The whole scene underscored Toluca’s bad week (the club fired head coach Sergio Luco, then lost again to SKC). But it was also a bizarre illustration of SKC’s complete dismantling of what many saw as a solid Mexican side.

Kansas City will take that momentum and move onto the CCL quarterfinals where they face Panama’s Independiente after the club’s MLS regular season opener at LAFC Sunday.

 

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