Cruz Control: Player Ratings from the Sporting KC vs. Cruz Azul match

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Some good defending, a good shot by a local kid, and maybe a little bit of luck see Kansas City take a 1 goal lead in the series before heading to Mexico City for Leg 2.

Well, it wasn't the dos-a-cero that we all wanted, but last night's performance against Cruz Azul was certainly a good one, and a really entertaining match from start to finish.

Kansas City came out of the gate really well and set the tone for the first half with high pressure and good possession before the guy who I'm going to guess no one would predict would score the first goal of the season snapped off a nifty shot that wound up just beating Azul's keeper Coronoa for the first, and only, goal of the game. I've gotta say, it was really exciting to see Kevin Ellis, a home grown kid, snag a goal in one of his first professional games, and certainly against a team like Cruz Azul in the Champions League.

Sporting came close twice more in the first half, first from a really good strike from another unlikely source in Opara, and then Bieler just barely denied by Corona.

The second half was a bit of a different story as Cruz Azul came out at a much higher tempo and pressed from the start. They probably feel hard done by a Benny Feilhaber handball on the goal line after a corner, rightfully so I'd say, but that's another discussion entirely.

Overall I thought it was a really really fun game to see in person, and I imagine neutral fans were pretty well entertained. Probably the best team in Liga MX going up against one of the top clubs in MLS, both fielding a more or less best XI. Good stuff. Next week promises to be crazy I think. Right now Sporting just need to not lose, or lose by only one if they manage to score an away goal. I imagine Vermes is going to want to press early and go for a quick goal. As scary as Azul's offense can be, Sporting is probably the best traveling team in MLS and their defensive record on the road last year was stellar. If SKC can nab a goal early, I think it'll be a challenge for Azul to score 3...

Let's move on to some player ratings. Here's what my spreadsheet spit out after inputing the Opta stats for the match.

Skc-cruzazul-ratings_medium

So, there you have it, Man of the Match honors to Kevin Ellis for scoring the game winning goal and, though I feel like he was probably the weakest defensive player on our back line, he was still part of a defensive unit that shut out what is arguably the most potent offense on the continent right now. Honorable mentions to Besler and Sinovic on defense as well as Bieler on the attacking side.

Ellis_headshot_primary_medium

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