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Sporting KC earn a frustrating point away in Nicaragua in their first match of the 2014-2015 CONCACAF Champions League.
Sporting Kansas City managed to hang on to a 1-1 draw away to Real Esteli in their first CONCACAF Champions League match of the 2014-2015 edition.
Sporting are tied for second in Group 2 with Saprissa while Real Esteli claims the top spot, having played one more match than both of their group competitors.
The match started in near-disaster for Sporting KC when Real Esteli jumped out to a lead in the 6th minute. Daniel Da Silva received a nice through ball from Rudel Calero and shot the ball against an oncoming Jon Kempin. Kempin was able to actually get low and make the save but the rebound bounced off of Jorge Claros and into the net for the own goal.
Sporting would equalize only ten minutes later, however. Graham Zusi and Toni Dovale lined up for a free kick about twenty yards outside the box on the near side. Dovale would end up taking the free kick, sending a beautiful curler near post that snuck inside the post for the goal. It was his second overall goal in a Sporting Kansas City kit.
The last thirty minutes of the half were full of Sporting KC possession but they had a lack of opportunities on goal. The teams went into the locker room tied 1-1 at the half.
Sporting would get their best opportunity of the second half in the 57th minute when Graham Zusi sent a low ball across the top of the box to Jorge Claros. Claros teed up his shot but it was blocked by a defender and later cleared by the Real Esteli defense.
Despite bringing on offensive-minded substitutes in Dom Dwyer, Benny Feilhaber and Sal Zizzo, Sporting would find themselves increasingly on the back heel as the second half wore down. The last ten minutes were controlled by Real Esteli as they pushed for a late winner and almost got one.
In the 81st minute, Juan Barrera got in alone on goal but was closed off to the near post by an oncoming Sporting defender. His shot towards the near post was parried aside in one of Jon Kempin's best saves of the match, keeping the score level.
The last good chance for the home side came in the 91st minute when a ball was coming down inside the box following a corner kick. Carlos Chavarria went for the shot in crowded space with a volley but the initial bounce was too high, forcing the shot harmlessly over the goal. After a couple more minutes of stoppage time, the ref blew the whistle for full time, Sporting KC drawing 1-1 with Real Esteli.
Sporting go back to MLS play Saturday night against DC United. They'll play their second Champions League game on September 18th, welcoming Saprissa to Sporting Park.
Follow along as Sporting KC take on Nicaraguan champions Real Esteli
The Teams

Sporting Kansas City
League: Major League Soccer (United States)
Record: 0-0-0
How they got here: Winner of 2013 MLS Cup
Manager: Peter Vermes (6th season)





Real Esteli FC

League: Campeonato Nacional de Fútbol de Primera División (Nicaragua)

Record: 0-0-1

How they got here: Aggregate winners of 2013-2014 Nicaraguan Apertura and Clausura



Manager: Ramón Otoniel Olivas (5th season)


Other Info
Table

Lineups

#SportingKC XI vs @RealEsteliFC: Kempin; Ellis, Collin, Besler (c), Sinovic; Olum, Claros, Zusi; Dovale, Sapong, Saad pic.twitter.com/9Mllg4gLIO
— Sporting Kansas City (@SportingKC) August 20, 2014





Subs: Melia, Juliao, Lopez, Steuble, Feilhaber, Dwyer, Zizzo. Kickoff at 9pm CT on @FOXSoccerPlus & @UnivisionSports! http://t.co/OMlZ1BWMqt
— Sporting Kansas City (@SportingKC) August 20, 2014

Date: August 19th, 2014

Gametime: 9:00 pm central

TV: Fox Sports Plus

Location: Estadio Independencia, Estelí, Nicaragua



The guys get back together to discuss the Sporting win over TFC, Kempin, Real Esteli, FC Kansas City and more!
In the latest episode of the podcast, Mike, Thad and Ben breakdown the Sporting Kansas City win over Toronto FC, the difference between the TFC and Vancouver games and the play of SKC's young keeper, Jon Kempin. They give their thoughts on SKC's CCL match at Real Esteli and what kind of lineup SKC will use. They also take a look at FC Kansas City's match with Portland Thorns in the first round of the NWSL playoffs and discuss why U.S. Soccer would schedule a friendly just days before the playoffs.



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Sporting KC opens up their Champions League schedule with a familiar foe in Real Esteli.Juan Barrera is out for Real Esteli tonight, plus a further preview of tonight's match.http://www.elnuevodiario.com.ni/deportes/327767-real-esteli-dano



Sporting get their 2014-2015 CONCACAF Champions League schedule underway with a midweek trip to Real Esteli.
About the Teams
Sporting Kansas City
Sporting KC come into this tournament with expectations of making the knockout stage for the second year in a row. They finished top of the group in the 2012-2013 competition, winning both road matches but drawing in both home matches. This year, they go into the opener with a roster that has had its fair share of injuries and other mishaps. This will force them to go into this match with a semi-strong lineup due to injuries to depth players or depth players having to become starters over the course of the season.
Real Esteli
Real Esteli shocked everyone when they went up 1-0 in the first half in their first Champions League match of the year against Saprissa. Saprissa eventually got the equalizer and settled for a draw but it showed that Real Esteli was able to, at least briefly, rise to their level of competition and get a solid home result. Their weekend match with the only other undefeated team in the Nicaraguan league was postponed, meaning they will be fully rested coming into this midweek match.
Player to Watch
Sporting Kansas City- Jon Kempin
Jon Kempin made his MLS debut last Sunday against Vancouver, then made his first MLS start against Toronto this past weekend. As the likely starting keeper for this match, Kempin will have to make some adjustments from starting an MLS match. For one, he will have to manage a back line that will feature different defenders than who he was worked with in MLS. He will have to adjust to the defending tendencies of possible defenders such as Kevin Ellis, Jacob Peterson and Lawrence Olum. He played well enough against Toronto, but it will be interesting to see if he can continue that going into a completely different environment.
Real Esteli- Samuel Wilson
Wilson has had a torrid start to the 2014 Apertura, scoring three goals in as many league matches. The Nicaraguan forward has been a constant starter for Real Esteli and looks to improve upon his 2013-2014 season that saw him finish with six goals in 26 matches. Their best forward, Juan Barrera, went down in the match against Saprissa and does not look like he will be ready for this match, meaning Wilson is going to have to step up and be the playmaker that was lost in the Barrera injury.
Why They'll Win
Sporting Kansas City
Sporting KC went into Esteli last year and came out with a 2-0 victory against a team that bunkered at home. With a stronger lineup expected this year from Sporting KC, there should be no reason they do not go down there and pressure Esteli into keeping the ball in their defensive half. Without Barrera, Esteli lose a lot of their creative presence up top, leaving the clinical finisher in Samuel Wilson to carry the offensive burden. If Sporting can shut him down and force the game back they should be able to fly home with three points.
Real Esteli
Esteli can win this match by getting a couple of chances and finishing them. They went with a 5-1-4 formation against Saprissa and it seemed to do well in both closing down the middle of the field and also giving them a few opportunities at further goals. They were able to take the match to Saprissa without giving too much up in the defense and could have walked away with a win had Barrera not been hurt, changing their offensive game plan. If they can close down the middle and give the front just a couple of chances to finish, they can pull out a huge victory.
Predictions
Lineups
Sporting Kansas City: Kempin; Peterson, Ellis, Olum, Juliao; Claros, Lopez, Feilhaber; Sapong, Dwyer, Dovale
Real Esteli: Lorente; Eduardo Praes, Zeledon, Kardek; Mejia, Franklin Lopez; Lazo; Rosas, Wilson, Jefinho, Valiente
Scoreline
Sporting Kansas City 2-1 Real Esteli


















In which we muse on what sometimes feels like a magical, fleeting unicorn : Sporting dominating a game and coming away with a big win.
I imagine Peter Vermes was right upset after the loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps, as he should have been. That was a lousy performance.
What we saw last night was more or less the opposite of that.
Another new lineup (a new lineup every game! I almost want to see the trend continue for the rest of the season) and this time, a new result. A 4-1 spanking of Toronto FC. On the one hand, it could have maybe been worse. Two early penalty kicks put TFC into a hole that made them come out and play a more open game, which I think always benefits Sporting Kansas City, and then Jackson did... well, that. Just Jackson being Jackson I guess? I don't know that I've ever seen a 3 on 0 go as wrong as that did honestly, but I'll take it. Jon Kempin (whom, henceforth, shall be known as Tiny Puma) did well enough on that play to position himself in a way that gave Aurelien Collin enough time to back track and make a fine play.
And how about that Soony Saad strike, eh? ♪♫ Oh my god, it's a mirage, I'm telling all ya'll it was Soony Saad! ♫♪
Anyway, let's look at some numbers.





Toronto FC
Key Stat


Joe Bendik
4.3
4 goals conceded


Justin Morrow
4.3
4 goals conceded


Doniel Henry
4.6
8 CBIs


Nick Haglund
4.3
5 recoveries


Collin Warner
5.8
1 assist


Jonathon Osorio
4.9
91% pass accuracy


Jackson
4.6
1 big chance missed


Michael Bradley
4.6
3 accurate long balls


Kyle Bekker
4.3
7 minutes played


Luke Moore
4.6
Honestly, pretty invisible


Gilberto
6.4
1 goal


Dominic Oduro
5.5
1 assist


Bright Dike
4.3
1 shoe lost


Daniel Lovitz
4.3
17 minutes played


Team Average
4.7








Sporting Kansas City
Key Stat


Jon Kempin
4.9
1 Big Save


Aurelien Collin
4.9
1 Big Clearence


Lawrence Olum
4.6
82% pass accuracy


Matt Besler
4.6
5 recoveries


Seth Sinovic
4.6
85% pass accuracy


Igor Juliao
4.6
5 CBIs


Benny Feilhaber
5.2
1 Penalty Earned


Graham Zusi
5.8
1 Assist


Sal Zizzo
4.6
4 recoveries


Jorge Claros
4.3
93% pass accuracy


Dom Dwyer
8.3
2 penalty kicks converted


Soony Saad
7.4
1 goal


C J Sapong
5.8
1 goal


Claudio Bieler
4.3
11 minutes played


Team Average
5.3





So, yeah. I feel bad giving MotM honors to Dom Dwyer for converting two PKs, even if it's not that easy. But, ignoring Dwyer, let's give a nod to Soony Saad. He played really well, and, honestly, damn. What a good goal.
Disagreement in the comments. Go.
Four goals in a beat-down of Toronto, Clint Dempsey challenges Eddie Johnson, and SKC look to open up the CCL with 3 points on the road.
Last night Sporting KC emphatically picked up 3 points against a good conference opponent. In a rare blowout, SKC picked up 4 goals behind two Dom Dwyer PK's! Highlights below:

That Soony Saad HOWLER?!?!?!

After winning Save of the Week last week in MLS, Jon "Tiny Puma" Kempin made his first start in goal and came up with a Jimmy Nielson-like save.

"There should be a little bit of Jimmy," Feilhaber said with a laugh. "It's his dad, basically. I'm sure Jimmy was more excited than Kempin was at the end of this game."

Sporting still stand atop the Eastern Conference with 42 points, but DC United are right behind with two games in-hand making next Saturday's matchup at Sporting Park one helluva matchup. However, United will be without Eddie Johnson who will be serving a suspension for violent misconduct last week against RSL. Kicking the ball at Salcedo like he did was either an attempt to be suspended and avoid embarrassment in front of the Cauldron like at the US Open Cup (WATCH)... or it was just right on par with his recent childish behavior.
Clint Dempsey clearly thought the social media woes were pretty funny as he gave Johnson a different kind of challenge during his ice bucket video...HA:

Jermaine Jones still does not have an MLS team, but Yallop and the Chicago Fire think they are "close" to getting a deal signed.
While we are on American Internationals.. The Barclay's Premier League officially began this weekend and several Americans were in action including Jozy Altidore and Tim Howard.
If you are tired of this one-game-a-week nonsense like I am, have no fear, Champion's League is here! Quick find someone to high five!

On Tuesday, Sporting will travel to Nicaragua to open up CCL play against Real Esteli. Esteli is the weakest team in the group (despite drawing at the dangerous home stadium of Saprissa) and SKC will look to bring home all 3 points. KC want to have a better showing in the group stage after falling victim to a low seed last season.