By ALAN HAINKEL
KANSAS CITY, Kansas– With the lineup Sporting Kansas City put out against Real Esteli on Tuesday night in CONCACAF Champions League action, you would have thought the team would have scored multiple goals in the first 10-15 minutes.
With Graham Zusi, Soony Saad and Claudio Bieler in the starting 11, expectations were that Sporting KC would generate a multitude of chances and be able to convert. Unfortunately for Sporting KC, there isn’t an entry on the score sheet for expectations. Opportunities to score don’t mean much if you can’t put them in the back of the net, as the Major League Soccer club drew with Real Esteli, 1-1.
“I thought we controlled the game with possession and chances,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said after the match. “We had plenty of chances, should have scored more than on. We had enough chances to put the game away and we didn’t.”
After a scoreless first half in which Sporting KC dominated the possession, Real Esteli seemed to get their act together and in the 54th minute opened the scoring. On a corner kick by Esteli’s Samuel Wilson, Rudel Calero arrived to the ball first and looped a header over Sporting KC goalkeeper Eric Kronberg.
Not until the 78th minute did Sporting KC get on the scoreboard. Forward Jacob Peterson, on the field for less than four minutes, nutmegged the keeper to equalize the match.
After the goal, Real Esteli seemed to start falling down all over the field in an attempt to kill off the clock. It got so bad at one point, the stretcher came out three times in as many minutes. Cramps would be understandable if it was hot, but the temperature at game time was in the low-to-mid 70s.
To his credit, Dominican referee Sandy Vasquez did not allow the visitors to roll around on the ground for very long before calling out the stretcher.
Real Esteli manager Ontoniel Olivas said during the postgame press conference that this match was more physical than the two teams’ last encounter in Nicaragua.
“It was more of a physical game here at Sporting Kansas City,” Olivas said. “Sporting KC played faster and for me it was true that I had to play more defensively and the game that we play in Nicaragua wasn’t the best game for us.”
With the draw, Sporting KC can advance to the quarterfinals of the tournament next March with a win or a draw in their last group stage match. They will take on Olimpia from Honduras at Sporting Park on October 23.
Real Esteli has been eliminated from the competition with one game to play. They could, however, spoil Olimpia’s chances with a result in Honduras on September 24. The chances, though, aren’t good. Real Esteli is 0-29-8 all-time in CONCACAF matches. In fact, they’ve only scored four goals in the competition in the last five years.