KANSAS CITY, Kansas -- After securing six points from two road victories, Sporting Kansas City will play the remainder of its CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) Group 2 matches in the friendly confines of Sporting Park, beginning with Tuesday’s encounter with Real Esteli.
Sporting can move even closer to clinching the group title and a berth in the quarterfinals with a win over Real Esteli, which would be eliminated from contention with a loss or a tie.
In their first meeting on August 7, Kansas City registered an impressive 2-0 win against Esteli thanks to goals from Ike Opara and Dom Dwyer.
The Major League Soccer squad followed that triumph with a matching 2-0 victory over Olimpia in Tegucigalpa on the strength of a Soony Saad brace on August 27.
With that result, Sporting became only the second team from the United States to win its first two CCL encounters. FC Dallas went 4-0-0 in 2011, posting shutouts in each win, before tying Panama’s Tauro.
Esteli, meanwhile, dropped a 1-0 decision against Olimpia at home on August 21.
Sporting Kansas City heads into the match well rested, having played its last match September 7, a 3-0 victory over the Columbus Crew in league play.
The team has made some changes since its last CCL match. Forward Kei Kamara, who had not made any appearances in the competition, is now at Middlesbrough of the English League Championship following a transfer.
Dwyer was briefly loaned to Orlando City and scored four goals in the USL Pro championship match, but is back with the squad.
The club also signed defender Federico Bessone on Friday. The 29-year-old has played for Swansea City, Leeds United, Charlton Athletic, Swindon Town and, most recently, Oldham Athletic.
“I’ve been training here for two weeks and the quality of the team is magnificent,” Bessone said on the Sporting Kansas City web site. “I’m very happy to be there. The city is great, the people are so friendly and my teammates have been tremendous with me.”
Real Esteli, which has never won a CCL match in 10 attempts, traveled to the United States on Sunday. El Tren del Norte is anxious to prove it is a different team from the one that Kansas City faced last August.
“We want to make a different game than we did at home against them,” Manuel Rosas told La Prensa. “[The team] has improved a lot collectively. It was a good game against Kansas City and Olimpia and we hope to play better than last time.”
It won’t be easy for Esteli, which could be without Samuel Wilson, who has a sprained ligament in his right knee. The forward, though, traveled to Kansas City, as did midfielder Elmer Mejia, who is doubtful for Tuesday’s match.
Still, Esteli, which sits atop the Nicaraguan Apertura after nine rounds, will be looking to avenge a pair of losses at home to keep its Champions League hopes alive.
“It is a collective revenge,” Rosas said. “You have to try to erase the bad image. We will seek to win, although we are not favorites. We [hope to] make a difference, come and play a good game.”