About the Teams
Sporting Kansas City
Sporting Kansas City has a huge advantage coming into this game, up by three points and with a four-goal differential lead over Saprissa. Should Sporting advance, they can be seeded anywhere from the seventh to the second seed, both requiring either an extreme win or loss. They'll have Jorge Claros for this match, currently serving a three-game MLS suspension, as well as Igor Juliao, who is suspended Sunday against New York Red Bulls. Graham Zusi is suspended for this match due to yellow card accumulation.
Saprissa needs to win by three goals to advance tonight, but playing at home is the perfect place for a big win. Their home-field advantage is reputed over CONCACAF and have also won their last five league matches. They'll be missing defender Jordan Smith but other than that their lineup is at full strength. It would take a big win for the Purple Dragons to advance but after Olimpia advanced over Portland the other night, anything is possible.
Players to Watch
Sporting Kansas City- Toni Dovale
Toni has been Sporting Kansas City's MVP of the CONCACAF Champions League with three goals and a handful of assists, making his presence known in every game. With Graham Zusi out for this match, Toni is likely going to play and is going to be counted on for providing some offense on the wing. With Saprissa needing lots of goals, they are going to be exposed down the wing, enough for Dovale to take advantage and set up some offense.
Saprissa- Adolfo Machado
Machado is likely going to step in for Smith on defense, seeing as he did in their last league game where Smith was suspended for a red card. Saprissa cannot afford to give up any goals after falling 3-1 to Sporting in Kansas City, so the defense will need to step up big at home. By creating a wall, the defense takes away Sporting's pressure and gives their forwards chances to score some goals against a tattered Sporting KC defense.
How to Win
Sporting Kansas City
Sporting doesn't need to win this match, although it would be preferable for seeding purposes considering the quality of teams in the middle of the pack. They could skate by with a result or even a close loss so what they need to do tonight is to, essentially, be careful. Still play the high-pressure offense, still attack well but don't overreach and allow Saprissa to steal a couple of quick goals. Playing on the road in Costa Rica is hard enough, Sporting just can't allow Saprissa any hope to get the three goals to advance.
Saprissa needs to force Sporting KC to sit back and fold under pressure. Three goals is a lot to ask for but Sporting KC's defense is tired and tattered. There's still a debate as to whether Lawrence Olum or Matt Besler will start at centerback, Jorge Claros hasn't played in a full match since September and Seth Sinovic cannot afford a yellow card or he'll miss the first leg in 2015. Saprissa needs to build up the attack and take advantage of every single weakness in Sporting KC's defense. If they don't, they won't advance. It's that simple.
Sporting KC: Kronberg; Juliao, Collin, Olum, Sinovic; Claros, Lopez, Feilhaber; Saad, Dwyer, Dovale
Saprissa: Carvajal; Machado, Delgado, Badilla, De Leon; Soto, Bustos, Russell, Arauz, Araya; Colindres