Mission accomplished for Sporting after first-leg win? Not even close

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Sporting Kansas City’s opening act of the 2019 season was a sight to behold. Their 3-0 romp over Toluca in the first leg of their Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 matchup on Thursday was in fact historical.

That victory made Sporting KC just the second American MLS team to defeat a Mexican team by the score of 3-0 or greater. The only other instance was the 1997 LA Galaxy, who defeated Santos Laguna by the score of 4-1.

But with a historical performance to open the tie, a daunting second leg still hangs over them, and they’re well aware of that.

“This was our first game,” Sporting forward Krisztian Nemeth told reporters after the match. “It’s always important to start positive so we are happy to win that game against a great team. It’s not over yet. We have to be prepared and concentrated for the next game and be ready for Toluca at [their] home.”

It could be easy for any team to get ahead of themselves, especially with the type of performance they put in against as close to a first choice Toluca side that they could get.

But head coach Peter Vermes felt the fact that they’d only played one game so far would help keep his squad down to earth.

“Staying within ourselves isn’t going to be difficult,” Vermes told reporters. “We haven’t even played an MLS game yet. So we’ve got a long way to go. The big thing is us getting prepared to play at the altitude their home field presents. 8,700 feet is a difficult proposition for any team. So, we’re going to have to be ready”

Vermes will take his team to Albuquerque, New Mexico on Saturday evening, and they’ll prepare for the match there at to create some base of fitness and acclimation at altitude. Albuquerque sits at about 5,300 feet.

While there has been a lot of talk about the altitude being a challenge, Ilie believes that the fact that Toluca themselves will likely remain a challenge.

“It’s easy to be focused because we know them,” Ilie said. “We know really well who they are. We know how good they can be with and without the ball. So respecting them a lot, that makes us focus on what we need to do.”