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An Imperfect Ten: Sporting KC Picked Apart by Monterrey 5-2

A better performance in the home leg is not enough to stop Monterrey from dropping five goals at Children’s Mercy Park

MLS: Champions League-Monterrey at Sporting KC Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Well. At least they didn’t get shut out this time.

Sporting Kansas City showed some more promise in the home leg of the Champions League semifinal, but were eventually picked apart by the better Monterrey side as Rayados earned a 5-2 victory on Thursday night. The scoreline brought the series to a 10-2 final total on aggregate.

It started off with some optimism, however. After a solid opening showing for Sporting in the first few minutes, they opened up the scoring in the fifth minute. Winger Johnny Russell sent in a cross from the byline which found an unmarked Gerso Fernandes. Off-balance, Fernandes still got enough of his foot on it to send it past the keeper and into the net.

The next ten minutes showed a couple nervy moments from Monterrey but mostly Sporting led the attack and put together a couple promising, albeit unsuccessful chances.

But the momentum stopped on a dime. In the 20th minute, Rogelio Funes Mori took advantage of a lapse in the Sporting KC defense in transition and took the ball all the way into the box, flanked by two other Monterrey attackers and with only Matt Besler and Tim Melia to beat. Funes Mori took the ball himself and slid it past Melia for the first Rayados score of the match, and increased Sporting KC’s aggregate deficit by two goals.

Sporting KC’s possession advantage waned over the next section of the first half, but they were able to still add another goal in the 30th minute. Russell broke free from a defender in the attacking half and launched a shot from 25 yards out which was blocked by the keeper. The ensuing rebound, however, was picked up by Gerso, who put it home for his second of the game, adding to an impressive tournament.

Any progress made with that goal, however, was nixed in the 39th minute. Jesús Gallardo slid a ball across the end line and found Rodolfo Pizarro at the near post. He sent it toward goal and, although it was deflected by the left foot of Melia, it went up and over the Sporting KC keeper and into the net for the second Monterrey goal. This put Sporting down 7-2 on aggregate.

Just before the half, Sporting had a chance for a third goal as defender Andreu Fontàs was taken down in the box and awarded a penalty kick. However, midfeilder Ille Sanchez’s chance from the spot was blocked and the rebound was cleared away. It would only have put a small dent in Sporting KC’s hole, but the miss still hurt as the teams went into the break deadlocked at two in the second leg.

Early into the second half it looked like Sporting KC might have put in another score when Seth Sinovic headed a Graham Zusi cross into the top of the goal, but it was waved offside and the score remained 2-2. A few minutes later and Sporting had another chance as a Russell free kick curled beautifully but outside of the near post he was aiming.

With no apparent miracle in the offing, Sporting made their first two substitutions in the 56th minute. Botond Baráth came in for Fontas and 16-year-old midfielder Gianluca Busio replaced Roger Espinoza.

Monterrey then took their first lead of the evening in the 61st minute. From 30 yards out, Miguel Layún sent in a perfect strike right into the top left corner to put Rayados up 3-2. Soon after, Sporting KC made their final sub as Krisztian Nemeth was replaced by Daniel Salloi, who was returning for the first time since his ankle injury in the champion’s league quarterfinals.

The scoring settled down for the next twenty minutes until the away side put another cherry on their victory sundae. Aviles Hurtado, moving to just inside the box, was able to juke around Baráth and put his shot out of the reach of Melia and into the net, just inside the far post. Rayados led 4-2.

Then, as it was mercifully almost over, Monterrey put one final nail in the coffin. Funes Mori was on the other end of a low cross from Monterrey sub Dorlan Pabón and he was wide open to knock it home for his second goal of the match. That would be the last goal of the match as Monterrey took home the victory 5-2, 10-2 on aggregate.

Rayados will take on Tigres in the Champions League final in a couple of weeks, setting up a cross-town rivalry matchup that is sure to be entertaining. Sporting KC return to league play this Sunday as they host last year’s Supporters Shield winners the New York Red Bulls.