With an injury, Sporting Kansas City's Graham Zusi is a question mark for Wednesday's CONCACAF Champions League game against host Real Esteli in Nicaragua. (Photo: Mexsport)
KANSAS CITY, Kansas -- Sporting Kansas City is set to make its CONCACAF Champions League debut Wednesday night against Real Esteli.
The Major League Soccer club, though, heads to the Estadio Independencia off back-to-back league losses, including a 3-2 defeat to the New York Red Bulls in a top-of-the-table Eastern Conference clash Saturday at Sporting Park.
That defeat came on the heels of a 1-0 setback at Montreal on July 27.
“It’s points that we’re giving away that we shouldn’t and it’s because of the lack of game management and also sense of the moment,” Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes stressed after the match Saturday. “That part has to change quickly now going into the Champions League. If there’s one thing you’ll find in CONCACAF opponents is that they know how to work the game and we better get smart in that really quick.”
Sporting Kansas City outshot the Red Bulls 27-5, but conceded three “horrendous” goals, according to Vermes, two of which came on counterattacks.
“All three of them were bad on our part,” he added. “With me, that is unacceptable.”
It wasn’t all bad for Kansas City, which received a first-half equalizer by Kei Kamara and the first MLS goal for forward Dom Dwyer in the second half. Dwyer also narrowly missed netting a second tally.
“He came on and was great,” Vermes said. “He gets a great goal. It’s unfortunate he doesn’t get the one off the crossbar. I thought he was mobile, he was strong, he was hungry.”
Sporting Kansas City played without United States international Graham Zusi, who missed the match with a sore right quad and his availability Wednesday against Real Esteli is in question. The midfielder suffered the injury in the first half of the MLS All-Star Game last Wednesday.
Still, with or without Zusi, Sporting will look to bounce back against Real Esteli in the first match of Group 2, which also features Honduran powerhouse Olimpia.
“We have to shift our focus quickly and prepare for the game in Nicaragua,” Sporting KC midfielder Benny Feilhaber said. “It’s going to be a tough game, but we’ll try and get three points there so that we can put ourselves in a good position to move forward.”
Qualified as 2012 U.S. Open Cup champions, Sporting Kansas City will face Olimpia in Tegucigalpa in its next CONCACAF Champions League match on Aug. 27, before playing its final two group stage matches at Sporting Park.
“We have to go back to work and right now focus on the Champions League which is very important to us,” Sporting Kansas City defender Aurelien Collin commented. “We then have to come back and win the next game against New England at home. We have to get back to focus, and right now we have to focus for Nicaragua.”