KANSAS CITY, Kansas – Sporting Kansas City may possess a slight advantage over Cruz Azul following the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) quarterfinal series, but both teams’ head coaches acknowledged that there is plenty of football left to played.
In his post-match press conference, Luis Fernando Tena remained optimistic that the current Liga MX leader could still advance despite a 1-0 setback on Wednesday; the club’s first loss in seven all-time CCL quarterfinal outings.
“The competition is still open and I have confidence in being able to come back,” said Tena, who is in his fourth stint as La Maquina’s manager.
The five-time CONCACAF champion – which was shutout 3-0 by Tigres in domestic play last weekend -- created more opportunities after the break without finding the back of the net.
"The first minutes Kansas was better than our team and it was reflected in the score," Tena added. "I think in the second half we were better and with more possession in its field. We pushed because it (Sporting) was very well positioned. It is a team that is assembled well and is a very strong team.”
In just its second official match of the season, Kansas City did not allow a goal against a side that struck 10 times in four group stage oungs. Now, through five CCL matches, Sporting has conceded only once.
Head coach Peter Vermes was pleased that his team posted a shutout, but knows the return leg won’t be easy.
“To not allow a goal here helps a lot,” said the 47-year-old. “Nevertheless, we know that 90 very difficult minutes remain.”
“We are going to have to be prepared for everything and as much as our concentration and focus and work ethic was good here, it will need to be double there because it will be a difficult match.”
The second leg will be played March 19 in Mexico City at the Estadio Azul.