About the Teams
Sporting Kansas City
Sporting have played the least amount of matches in the group, currently sitting last in the group with one point in one game. They were not able to break down Real Esteli's defense about a month ago in a game where they hoped they'd be able to take three points. While not devastating, it amplifies the importance of these two home games coming for Sporting KC against Saprissa tonight and Real Esteli next Tuesday. Not having league matches until next Friday gives Sporting KC the opportunity to put out a full lineup tonight, however, including the possible return of first-string keeper Eric Kronberg.
Saprissa sits at the top of the group and, with a win tonight, could make it all but confirmed that they win the group. It would make them only in need of a result in their last match at home against Sporting KC. They currently sit fourth in the Costa Rican Primera Division but have won four of their last five and scored multiple goals in all their wins. They have a high-powered offense that can really give Sporting KC headaches if Sporting's defense isn't playing up to par.
Who to Watch
Sporting Kansas City- Eric Kronberg
Sporting KC have been without their starting keeper for the past couple of months when he fractured his fourth metacarpal in his hand. Recent reports from Steve Brisendine lead us to believe that Kronberg could return tonight against Saprissa. We have know idea if Kronberg will be rusty in this match or if he'll come out like there's been no break at all. Against Saprissa's strong offense, Kronberg needs to be the last line of defense and he might be called upon to make some big saves tonight.
Saprissa- Keilor Soto
Soto has been jumping around the Primera Division for the past couple of years, landing at Saprissa in the past offseason. The midfielder has posted the highest number of minutes already for Saprissa and has a goal to his tally in four games. Despite being listed as a midfielder, however, it looks like he's been playing a wingback role for Saprissa, not unsimilar to Seth Sinovic. If he can bring an extra attacker down the flank, it could really hurt Sporting KC's own attack.
Why They'll Win
Sporting Kansas City
While Saprissa is able to put up a number of goals against Primera Division competition, they also give up a fair number of goals. If Sporting is putting out a strong lineup tonight, they should be able to score goals against this leaky defense. Since both of these teams play a similar formation and tactics, it may come down to home field advantage and overall talent level, of which Sporting KC has the advantage in both categories tonight. Saprissa is a strong team, but Sporting should be able to pull this one out tonight.
If there's one thing Sporting KC struggles with, it's a strong attack down the flank. If Saprissa uses their wingbacks sufficiently, they could give Seth Sinovic and Igor Juliao fits. If Saprissa can absorb the Sporting attack and effectively deploy their wingbacks on the counter, they may be able to steal a couple of goals tonight. It's a tall task for the visitors but, as we know in Champions League (insert anything can happen cliche here).
Sporting Kansas City: Kronberg; Juliao, Collin, Besler, Sinovic; Claros, Nagamura, Feilhaber; Saad, Dwyer, Zusi.
Saprissa: Carvajal; Smith, Rafael Morales, Machado, Soto; Russell, Bustos, Guzman; Arauz, Ramirez, Saucedo.