Sporting Kansas City dominated nearly every statistical category tonight as they locked down 3 important points against Real Esteli in CCL group play.
Claudio Bieler took advantage of precious minutes with a brace and Sal Zizzo was able to put the nail in the coffin with his head for a 3rd goal.
Early on, the Sporting back line had trouble adjusting to the pace of the Nicaraguan side. Matt Besler, Igor Juliao and Erik Palmer-Brown were all beat badly and forced to make ugly fouls. Igor and EPB were among 5 first half yellow cards for their troubles. In the 8', the 17 year-old right back was beaten so badly in the box that even HE was unable to foul and Esteli's Figueroa forced a great save out of Kronberg.
SKC was able to get forward effectively with their outside backs throughout the first half, however. Benny Feilhaber sent Sinovic down the left side in the 13' with that beautiful outside-of-the foot pass he showcases so often. The through ball split two defenders for Seth who laid up Claudio Bieler for a sitter and the early lead.
The MLS Champions dominated play despite just a 1 goal lead at the half. The lead should have been doubled in the 28' when Zusi sent a chip over Justo Lorente that saw it's way into the wrong side of the side netting. The Esteli shot-stopper was in no man's land and lucky Zusi was unable to keep the floater on frame. Bieler also should have added another when Zusi put him through in the box with a cheeky, close-quarters pass minutes later.
Sal Zizzo was brought on for Benny at the intermission. Sal had been struggling to find minutes and Benny would have been frustrated after being hacked by Kardek as the half drew to a close.
Sporting continued to control the game in the 2nd half but the next goal wouldn't come until the 70' when Bieler made the most of a poor challenge in the box to draw a penalty. The Designated Player confidently fired the ball passed a diving Lorente to double his tally on the evening.
Only 8 minutes later, the home side would triple the lead. Toni found Zizzo at the near post, who flicked it into the net with his head. Taking nothing away from Sal's great effort, Real Esteli's marking was basically non existent on this play.. and most of the match.
Although the lead probably should have been more, the boys can be happy with 3 more points in group play. The win takes some pressure off as Sporting head to Costa Rica on October 23 to face Deportivo Saprissa and wrap up group play.