MLS's sole survivor, Sporting KC, suffers crushing blow in Concacaf Champions League semifinals

No MLS team has gone deeper in the Concacaf Champions League and suffered a worse defeat than Sporting Kansas City, a 5-0 loser at Monterrey in the first leg of their semifinal series on Thursday night.

And the thing about it is, the defeat could have been worse. Los Rayados ran the sole surviving MLS team off the field, underscoring the huge gulf between the top Liga MX teams and top MLS teams.

It makes last year's performances by Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls all the more amazing. They reached the final and semifinals, respectively, and played champion Guadalajara even.

That was not the case with Sporting KC against Monterrey. It fell behind 2-0 after 14 minutes, and things deteriorated after the break when Monterrey added three more goals.

The 5-0 loss matched the worst defeat by an MLS team in the Concacaf Champions League knockout stage: The Seattle Sounders fell to Santos, 6-1, in the 2012 quarterfinals.

Worst MLS defeats: CCL knockout stage
5 goals:
Santos 6 Seattle Sounders 1 (2012 quarterfinals)
Monterrey 5 Sporting KC 0 (2019 semifinals)
4 goals:
Santos 6 Toronto FC 2 (2012 semifinals)
Cruz Azul 5 Sporting KC 1 (2014 quarterfinals)
Santos 4 LA Galaxy 0 (2016 quarterfinals)
CAI 4 Toronto FC 0 (2019 round of 16)

Sporting KC went into the series as the underdog, but its experience was expected to keep things respectable at the Estadio BBVA Bancomer. Indeed, the 2018 Western Conference runner-up team was kept together with the idea that it would be competitive in the Concacaf Champions League.

Sporting KC, which was coming off a 7-1 win over Montreal in MLS play, was not only sloppy with the ball but it lost it in bad positions on the field.

"The difference in this game was that we were not good with the ball," said Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes. "We gave it up in critical areas, and the difference is they took advantage of each of the opportunities where we coughed the ball up in bad places, or were not good with the ball, and then they went and they scored."

He praised Monterrey's tenacity.

"They were relentless at it," added Vermes. "They had an incredible desire and intensity to do that. If you had to ask me for one reason, it's that in itself. Positionally, we were poor, we left ourselves exposed and then when you don't keep the ball in those moments, and you're not going to because you're not positioned well, a team like that will crush you, and they did."

Thursday's loss means it will be 11 years and counting that an MLS team has not won the Concacaf Champions League and shows why that won't likely change any time soon.

April 4 in Guadalupe
Monterrey 5 Sporting KC 0. Goals: Pabon 7, 76, Hurtado 14, Gallardo 55, Sanchez pen. 70.
Monterrey -- Barovero; Medina, Montes (Layun 73), Sanchez, Gallardo (Vangioni 83); Pabon (Meza 79), Rodriguez, Gonzalez, Hurtado; Pizarro; Funes Mori.
Sporting KC -- Melia; Zusi, Fontas, Besler, Sinovic; Espinoza, Ilie, Felipe (Busio 73); Russell (Croizet 64), Nemeth (Rowe 80), Fernandes.
4 comments about "MLS's sole survivor, Sporting KC, suffers crushing blow in Concacaf Champions League semifinals".
  1. Wooden Ships, April 5, 2019 at 8:20 a.m.

    The difference in ball skills and imagination were on display. SKC will just have to score six and not give any up. 

  2. Jon Rakestraw replied, April 5, 2019 at 12:36 p.m.

    Unfortunately your spot-on on the lack of imagination in the MLS. It is still evident we have too many “cookie cutter” players and not enough “street” players where you tend to get more of the imaginative play. (See my blog at on this topic for more info.) As an agent, I have tried to bring in these type of players but MLS & USL clubs do not give me the time of day because these players don’t have the “pedigree.”

    But in a positive note, MLS clubs are starting to wake up to this as we saw with Atlanta’s squad last season. 

  3. Wooden Ships replied, April 5, 2019 at 5:55 p.m.

    I feel for you Jon. I’ve grown so weary of hearing the phrase “patterned play.” Club, college, that’s where this pedigree idea abounds. Hopefully, as you evidently still retain some optimism, that you’re correct and there is a slow awakening taking place. However, Tata’s influence with AU is already gone. As I’ve stated before on this forum, we had greater ball skills and imagination 50 years ago. We are trying to science are way into quality, trying to take a shortcut. It isn’t working.

  4. frank schoon replied, April 7, 2019 at 11:24 a.m.

    Jon, as Ships states we had better ball skills and imagination 50 years ago. We have licensed coaches who produce nothing but stale, programmed players and "patterned play'' is all part of it.
    As long as the USSF leadership, specifically the Coaching School don't realize that the kids need to be brought up playing street type of ball we are a lost cause. Licensed coaches can not teach "by the numbers' what these kids learn playing pickup ,"street ball". You can't teach thinking and creativity with the by the numbers. It's like showing kids how to paint Picasso's painting by the numbers.
    The difference in Europe is that although they likewise have licensed coaches, the kids still play street ball, which we don't. Read up on the French stars and they all credit 'street ball' for their development.
    The USSF, I think , will stay away from this issue for it would mean less control and MONEY, for those licensed coaches who rely upon teaching this programmed garbage...

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