After losing four out of five league matches, Sporting Kansas City will travel to Honduras to take on Olimpia in a CONCACAF Champions League match. This match would put the winner in the driver's seat for the remainder of the group stage, while putting the loser in a position where they have no margin for error the final two matches. A tie keeps both teams at the top of the group and makes the final two matches a lot more interesting.
About the Teams
Sporting Kansas City
Sporting went into Nicaragua last match and defeated Real Esteli 2-0 with a mixed lineup featuring starters and reserves. This lineup may be a bit more heavy on the starters, but Vermes will probably rest some players. Claudio Bieler is pretty much guaranteed to start after getting Friday night off against Chicago. Out for the match is Kei Kamara, Josh Gardner and Paulo Nagamura.
The Honduran champions present a more formidable foe than Real Esteli, but not by much. It speaks volumes that Real Esteli felt comfortable attacking in their 1-0 loss last week to Olimpia, but played on their heels at home against Sporting Kansas City. However Olimpia came away with the road win and return to their formidable home stadium to play Sporting KC. They are 7-2-2 at home in CCL and are typically a strong side in the Champions League.
Players to watch
Sporting Kansas City- Claudio Bieler
Claudio Bieler got the night off Friday night in Sporting Kansas City's 1-0 loss to the Chicago Fire in order to be rested for this game. He has experience against Central American sides and will be the go-to target in this match. His experience with these types of crowds will be vital in leading the team who is relatively new in these scenarios. He hasn't scored in awhile, but maybe tonight will be the night Taca returns to his goal-scoring form.
CD Olimpia- Noel Valladares
With more than 100 caps for the Honduran national team, Valladares is no stranger to big games. The Olimpia keeper will be vital in keeping Sporting's attacking offense at bay while directing the Olimpia team. He was a stronghold in the first Champions League match against Real Esteli and has been rock solid for the Olimpia side his whole career. He will be a big part in determining if Sporting KC walks out with a result or not.
How they will win
Sporting Kansas City
Sporting needs to keep calm and not allow the Honduran crowd to get into their minds. They need to pressure the flanks, get the ball to Bieler and let him do his thing in the box. Crossing can work if Kei Kamara is on the field, but since he isn't a small pass approach through the middle might work better. I doubt Zusi will play tonight, so it'll be up to Benny Feilhaber to create those chances.
Olimpia needs to ride their crowd and not allow Sporting to control the tempo. If Olimpia can be a nuisance in the midfield and disrupt tempo and lower Sporting's passing accuracy, they have a better chance of turning the game in their favor. If they allow Sporting to create good chances in the middle and control the game from there then the home side will no be able to win. They need to fluster Sporting and force them to make mental mistakes, allowing opportunities for goals on counter attacks.
Sporting KC: Kronberg, Sinovic, Olum, Opara, Jerome, Rosell, Joseph, Feilhaber, Sapong, Bieler, Saad.
CD Olimpia: Valladares, Portillo, Fonseca, Medina, Bermúdez, Méndez, Córdova, Tilguath, Will, Caetano, Bruschi
Sporting KC 1-1 CD Olimpia
This will be a frustrating game between two good sides and a raucous home crowd will propel Olimpia to hold Sporting to a goal while earning one themselves.