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Champions League Preview: Monterrey Q&A

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We exchanged questions with our sister blog, FMF State of Mind, to get a closer look at Sporting KC’s CCL Semifinal opponent CF Monterrey.

Monterrey v Cruz Azul - Torneo Clausura 2019 LIga MX Photo by Azael Rodriguez/Getty Images

Are you excited yet?

Sporting Kansas City are facing off with C.F. Monterrey in the Concacaf Champions League Semifinal tonight in Mexico. This is a huge opportunity - and a truly massive challenge - for the club.

You know a Major League Soccer club has never won the competition in its current format. But we wanted to give you a more in-depth view of Monterrey so we got with our friends over at FMF State of Mind for some intel. Below is our exchange with Pete Schlenker.

Sporting KC fans know that Monterrey has been one of the best clubs in the North America the last few years. But what has made them a top club? What formation & style of soccer should we expect to see?

Along with their crosstown rivals Tigres UANL and a couple of the big clubs from CDMX, Monterrey have been one of the biggest spending clubs in Mexico. They’ve spend a fortune in transfers and brought in a number of high-quality players from Europe, along with developing a few Mexico internationals as well. They have a large, new stadium in the BBVA Bancomer and they have a committed and passionate fanbase in one of northern Mexico’s biggest and most important cities.

Diego Alonso, manager of los Rayados prefers to play a 4-2-3-1 formation with a lone striker flanked by two wingers and an attacking midfielder behind the lone striker. Monterrey like to use their fullbacks for width, but at times it becomes a little more direct, with Dorlan Pabón and Avilés Hurtado simply putting the ball on their feet and beating their defenders with pace to break down the defensive line.

This Monterrey squad has a transfer value (according to TransferMarkt) that is about 4 times that of Sporting KC. Do you and other Liga MX fans see this as an easy path to the final?

At the semifinal stage, I would imagine that no one is taking anything or anyone lightly. While I can imagine that some Monterrey fans will be glad to face off against Sporting KC at this point in the tournament rather than Santos Laguna, after Sporting KC destroyed Toluca on aggregate in the round of 16 I’m not sure that anyone is taking them lightly. A number of other Liga MX fans would also have seen the beat-down that Sporting KC gave to the Montreal Impact over the weekend and took notice of the club.

Did Toronto FC’s run to the final (lost in PKs) last year do anything at all to change minds about the level of play in Major League Soccer?

It did help, although losing to Chivas, who struggled all season, probably didn’t help their case that much. I think most fans with knowledge of both leagues know that MLS is getting better and deeper thanks to the introduction of allocation money, but teams like Monterrey, Tigres, Club América, and Cruz Azul have also been trying to spend their way into a higher bracket than the rest of Liga MX as well, attempting to leave teams like Pachuca or Querétaro in their wake.

Monterrey are winless in their last four matches. Has it just been a tough stretch or is there cause for concern going into Thursday night?

There will be extra pressure on Alonso, as this team needs to win at least one, if not two, trophies for this to be considered a successful season. Monterrey lost the Apertura 2017 final at home to rivals Tigres after being extremely dominant all season and then lost in the first round of the Clausura 2018 Liguilla (playoffs) to Club Tijuana. This resulted in their manager, Antonio Mohamed, parting ways with the club, going to Celta Vigo in Spain, although he was sacked a few months into the season.

Then management recruited Alonso from Pachuca, who had punched above their weight under his leadership. They also spent big last summer and during the winter transfer window to bring in new players, so on paper this team is extremely deep and has all the tools for a deep run in whatever competition they are in.

Unfortunately, this team cannot seem to get anyone besides Rogelio Funes Mori, the former FC Dallas youth player, to reliably score goals. This means that if he’s off or shut down for a match, Monterrey struggle to score. The team also has a bad habit of scoring early and then switching off and somehow allowing the other team to find a way back in the match. Monterrey have allowed late goals from Cruz Azul last weekend, Tigres in the Clásico Regio, and Club León early in the season, turning what would have been quality wins into draws.

If los Rayados had the six points that were dropped from winning positions, they would be in first place right now instead of third place in the table. This team has a remarkable line-up of talent, and going winless in four matches isn’t acceptable, even if one of those was the second leg of a Concacaf Champions League match on the road with a 3-0 advantage going into the match.

FMF State of Mind Prediction:

Monterrey 3-1 at home. Sporting KC can probably nick a goal, but the defense will be facing one of the best strikers in North America in Funes Mori and he should bag at least one or two goals.

To check out Cody’s answers to their questions, CLICK HERE.