KANSAS CITY, Kansas -- If you were to characterize the mood of the Sporting Kansas City players and coaches ahead of the team’s CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal, second leg with Cruz Azul, it would be fair to say they are cautiously optimistic.
They have cause for optimism after an impressive effort in the opener, which resulted in a 1-0 victory before a capacity crowd at Sporting Park. The loss was Cruz Azul’s first in seven all-time CCL quarterfinal games.
They’re cautious because everyone at the club is of the belief that despite possessing an advantage going into Wednesday’s second leg at the Estadio Azul, a difficult 90 minutes of soccer awaits.
“I expect for them to come out and throw everything at us,” said head coach Peter Vermes said. “They are playing at home and are a very good team. We knew them well before this game and we know them a lot better now. And they are not going to go down without a major fight.
“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.”
Defender Ike Opara was pleased to have the lead, but believes the series is far from decided.
“We wanted to get the win and keep a shutout and we did that,” the 25-year-old commented. “It gives us a chance going down to Mexico City and hopefully we see it through. We know it’s going to be a tough battle, but we’re up for the challenge.”
As will Cruz Azul, undoubtedly.