Sporting Kansas City managed to hang on to a 1-1 draw away to Real Esteli in their first CONCACAF Champions League match of the 2014-2015 edition.
Sporting are tied for second in Group 2 with Saprissa while Real Esteli claims the top spot, having played one more match than both of their group competitors.
The match started in near-disaster for Sporting KC when Real Esteli jumped out to a lead in the 6th minute. Daniel Da Silva received a nice through ball from Rudel Calero and shot the ball against an oncoming Jon Kempin. Kempin was able to actually get low and make the save but the rebound bounced off of Jorge Claros and into the net for the own goal.
Sporting would equalize only ten minutes later, however. Graham Zusi and Toni Dovale lined up for a free kick about twenty yards outside the box on the near side. Dovale would end up taking the free kick, sending a beautiful curler near post that snuck inside the post for the goal. It was his second overall goal in a Sporting Kansas City kit.
The last thirty minutes of the half were full of Sporting KC possession but they had a lack of opportunities on goal. The teams went into the locker room tied 1-1 at the half.
Sporting would get their best opportunity of the second half in the 57th minute when Graham Zusi sent a low ball across the top of the box to Jorge Claros. Claros teed up his shot but it was blocked by a defender and later cleared by the Real Esteli defense.
Despite bringing on offensive-minded substitutes in Dom Dwyer, Benny Feilhaber and Sal Zizzo, Sporting would find themselves increasingly on the back heel as the second half wore down. The last ten minutes were controlled by Real Esteli as they pushed for a late winner and almost got one.
In the 81st minute, Juan Barrera got in alone on goal but was closed off to the near post by an oncoming Sporting defender. His shot towards the near post was parried aside in one of Jon Kempin's best saves of the match, keeping the score level.
The last good chance for the home side came in the 91st minute when a ball was coming down inside the box following a corner kick. Carlos Chavarria went for the shot in crowded space with a volley but the initial bounce was too high, forcing the shot harmlessly over the goal. After a couple more minutes of stoppage time, the ref blew the whistle for full time, Sporting KC drawing 1-1 with Real Esteli.
Sporting go back to MLS play Saturday night against DC United. They'll play their second Champions League game on September 18th, welcoming Saprissa to Sporting Park.