Sporting Kansas City's Claudio Bieler (blue jersey) tries to get past Luis Perea of Cruz Azul during their CONCACAF Champions League match on March 12, 2014, in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo: Jamila St. Ann)
MEXICO CITY -- His team holds a precious one-goal lead in its CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal and, as a result, Sporting Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes knows Cruz Azul will come out on fire in the return match Wednesday.
"They're going to throw everything at us," he said. "They have so many incredible attacking qualities. That's something we have to be very, very, attentive to."
In last week's firs leg, defender Kevin Ellis scored the only goal to lift host Kansas City to a 1-0 win. Sporting needs only a tie at the Estadio Azul to progress to the semifinals.
"Now it's going to be another challenge," Vermes expressed.
Cruz Azul, which leads Liga MX with a 9-1-1 mark and 28 points, enters the game in good spirits. It is coming off a 2-1 home victory over another CCL quarterfinalist, Club Tijuana, as Marco Fabian struck for a second-half brace last Friday
The Mexican side also is tough to beat at home as evidenced by a 5-0-0 mark in the Clausura.
Though the current Major League Soccer champion respects Cruz Azul, its players are optimistic they can reach the final four.
"We should be confident," team captain and central defender Matt Besler said. "We're going to go for it.
"It's going to be tough to go down there to get a result. We're going to have the right game plan and we know what to do to advance."
Both teams will not be at full strength. Kansas City defender Seth Sinovic is suspended, while Cruz Azul's Rogelio Chavez and Alejandro Castro have to sit out the game as well due to one-game bans.
Sporting, despite its CCL triumph, has not won in its first two league matches this year (0-1-1).
On Saturday, KC allowed FC Dallas to equalize in the 90th minute for a 1-1 draw, the second successive week it let points to slip away in the closing seconds. In its opener, Sporting surrendered a stoppage-time goal to the Seattle Sounders in a 1-0 loss.
Sporting will have to overcome some history in the game because MLS teams have not fared well in Mexico in CCL competition. MLS sides have registered a 2-5-27 after Club Tijuana’s 4-2 triumph over the LA Galaxy on Tuesday, while being outscored 93-31. An MLS side has never won a knockout-round match in Mexico, having gone 0-7-2.
Cruz Azul vs Sporting Kansas City