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Champions League Preview: Sporting KC Host CF Monterrey

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Comeback needed.

Monterrey v Sporting KC - CONCACAF Champions League 2019 Photo by Azael Rodriguez/Getty Images

Sporting Kansas City vs. CF Monterrey

When: Thursday, April 11, 2019 at 8:00 PM CT

Where: Children’s Mercy Park

How to Watch / Stream: YahooSports.com

It all comes down to this. Just kidding, it’s almost assuredly a pointless game on Thursday against Monterrey. After the 5-0 road beatdown last Thursday, Sporting KC needs everything to go right to advance into the finals of the CONCACAF Champions League.

And as much as I want them to pack it up and focus on MLS, it sure doesn’t sound like that’s the plan. Seth Sinovic says, “You’ve got to believe.” Peter Vermes seems like he believes (though maybe not too deeply). Even Johnny Russell says “there’s always a chance.” It sounds like it’s all about pride at this point. No one wants to go out like this and Sporting can definitely win. They just are incredibly unlikely to advance.

For Monterrey’s part they took a 5-1 beating over the weekend against Toluca FC. The same Toluca that SKC beat on aggregate 5-0 over two legs earlier in the CCL tournament. So you’re saying there’s a chance. Well no, not really, but Sporting can look to at least avenge the loss.

How Sporting KC Can Advance

Here it is, in all it’s bleak reality, straight from the team’s site:

- Sporting wins the series with: a six-goal victory.

- Monterrey wins the series with: a win, a draw, a loss by four or fewer goals, or a five-goal loss in which they score at least once (6-1, 7-2, etc.)

- The series goes straight to penalty kicks with: a 5-0 win for Sporting

Interesting Stats

  • Sporting KC have never lost a competitive match to a Mexican team at Children’s Mercy Park (2-0-0 over Cruz Azul and Toluca)
  • SKC’s last home game was a 7-1 drubbing of the Montreal Impact, which is a scoreline that would put them through to the finals of CCL
  • In 2019, SKC are 4-0-0 at home
  • In 2019, Sporting KC have outscored their opponents 15-1 at CMP
  • Tim Melia’s only CCL loss in 2019 is against Monterrey (3-1-0)

Get more stats through By The Numbers on the team’s official site.

Injuries

Sporting KC

OUT - Jimmy Medranda (knee surgery), Erik Hurtado (knee surgery), Jaylin Lindsey (torn meniscus), Rodney Wallace (hip injury)

QUESTIONABLE - Daniel Salloi (ankle sprain)

Monterrey

OUT - Jonathan Urretaviscaya, Jose Basanta

QUESTIONABLE - Arturo Gonzalez, Miguel Layun

*No injury report was put out for CCL, however, already updated this on Wednesday to reflect intel from Pete in the comments. (Thanks Pete!)

Starting XI

I’ve made it abundantly clear I think SKC should rest their players and focus on MLS with a game against the New York Red Bulls on two days rest. However, that seems unlikely, so let’s see who plays.

One guy who shouldn’t play is Johnny Russell. He played in Monterrey last Thursday and all 90 minutes against FC Cincinnati on Sunday. Save him for RBNY. Or worst case, play him no more than 20-30 minutes as a sub.

Another player who played both games is Andreu Fontas. I would rest him in favor of Botond Barath.

Someone who has played too much but might be limited on options to replace him is left back Seth Sinovic. He came on against Cincy for an injured Rodney Wallace early in the match and played the entire disastrous game against Monterrey where he was repeatedly torched.

With Jimmy Medranda still recovering from knee surgery, the only other options that can/have played left back are Matt Besler (doubtful), Roger Espinoza (doubtful) and Yohan Croizet (maybe). The team could opt to loan a player from the Swope Park Rangers. Justin Bilyeu looked good in preseason but may be injured as he has been missing for SPR. Alexsander has played LB and could be an option from the Rangers. Seth needs to rest with no other left backs eligible for Sunday.

Ilie Sanchez is the final player who has played all the games. I’d rest him (but then again, I’d rest everyone) so I have to wonder if Vermes takes the risk of playing him in all five games over this 16 day stretch. Don’t do it Pete! Wan Kuzain is an option. Gedion Zelalem played a game there with the Rangers (though looked poor). Gutierrez can play the #6 per Vermes. There are more options to replace Gutierrez than to replace Ilie. So either put him there, or start Kuzain.

That means Gianluca Busio would come in for Felipe and then Roger Espinoza probaby returns to the other midfield spot (though ‘short rest Roger’ isn’t great for the weekend as he turns into ‘red card Roger’).

Up front there is the possibility Daniel Salloi plays. I wouldn’t risk it. That leaves Gerso Fernandes, Krisztian Nemeth and I guess Yohan Croizet or Kelyn Rowe if Russell is resting.

This is almost assuredly wrong, but what can you do?

Rest of the 18: Zendejas, Rwatubyaye, Sinovic, Russell, Salloi, Hernandez (SPR), Harris (SPR)

I don’t even know why I bothered guessing a lineup or a bench.

Fan Starting XI

The fan vote is chalk. 100%. Back to front it’s Melia, Zusi, Fontas, Besler, Sinovic, Ilie, Espinoza, Gutierrez, Russell, Nemeth and Gerso.

There were more votes than usual though for other players. Here they are from highest to the lowest one I bothered to type: Barath (46.5%), Hasler (38%), Busio (35.2%), Zelalem (28.2%), Rowe [wing] (26.8%), Zendejas (23.9%), Croizet [CF] (19.7%), Rwatubyaye (18.3%), Wallace (15.5%), Kuzain (15.5%), Freeman (14.1%) and Rowe [mid] (11.3%).

Tyler Freeman is definitely not playing as he’s with the SKC Academy at the U17 Generation Adidas Cup. Wallace is very likely still hurt. But everything else could definitely be true. Only PV knows.

Prediction

I don’t want to do what fellow editor Ben Gartland did and predict a 6-1 Sporting KC win. It would look nice, but Monterrey would advance on the away goals tiebreaker. Instead, I’ll say Sporting find a way to win, but not by a scoreline that matters. I suspect Monterrey, much like they did against Atlanta United, will sit in deep and defend. I won’t be surprised if they pick off a goal on the counter which would effectively end things. But all the pressure is off of SKC. No one expects anything out of them. They’ll probably play much better because of it.

3-1 Sporting KC Win

Let me know how wrong I am about the lineup, the predictions and so on in the comments below.