The score ended 0-0, but Sporting Kansas City where firmly in control. They held almost 70 percent of the ball (68.8), allowed their opponents only 246 passes (to their 539), and limited Olimpia to 1 shot on goal. The only thing that would keep Sporting KC from claiming Group 2 was one of soccer’s spells of randomness, and on Wednesday night in Kansas City, it never came. Erik Konberg’s third shutout of the competition sent the Hondurans home empty handed, giving Sporting the group and a place in CONCACAF Champions League’s quarterfinals.
Sporting finishes group stage 2-0-2, claiming six of their eight points on the road. Olimpia, needing a win tonight to go through, finishes on seven, while Nicaraguan club Real Estelí’s only result was their 1-1 in Kansas City.
The result allows Kansas City to advance for the first time since 2002, when the competition was called the CONCACAF Champions Cup, but because of a low point total relative to the other group winners, they’re likely to get a tough quarterfinal draw. They’re currently the sixth of six qualified teams and are destined to face one of the three remaining Mexican clubs (Toluca, Cruz Azul, Tijuana) or LA Galaxy in the quarterfinals.
That’s the cost of settled for a draw, though Peter Vermes is unlikely to care. The Kansas City boss seemed to have defense on his mind in choosing a first choice back four behind Oriel Rosell and Laurence Olum in midfield.
Vermes didn’t shortchange, the attack, however, starting all of Graham Zusi, C.J. Sapong, and Teal Bunbury. Unfortunately, the only times Sporting found goal were called back, with goals from Bunbury and Zusi waved off after offside calls.
Ultimately, those disallowed goals couldn’t stop Kansas City from advancing, becoming the second Major League Soccer side to clinch a space in the knockout round. Despite having one match remaining, the LA Galaxy have already secured a spot in the next stage, while the San Jose Earthquakes can do the same with a win Wednesday night over Guatemalan side Heredia.
But now, with their group stage over, Sporting now shift their attention back to Major League Soccer, where they can still claim first in the Eastern Conference as well as the Supporters’ Shield. A Saturday win in Philadelphia coupled by a New York stumble against Chicago will give them both.