Two Toni Dovale goals later, Sporting Kansas City has control of its CONCACAF Champions League group. After MLS’s champions and visiting Deportivo Saprissa went into half time at 1-1, the Spanish winger scored twice in the span of seven minutes, giving the home side the 3-1 victory that vaulted it into a tie for first in Group 2.
Dom Dwyer opened the night’s scoring from the spot in the 13th minute only to see Saprissa’s Juan Bustos put his 28th minute equalizer into Andy Gruenebaum’s upper-left corner. In the middle of the second half, however, Toni pushed Sporting past its group’s toughest competition, scoring in the 69th and 76th minutes to give the home side its decisive result.
Still with a game in hand on Saprissa (Costa Rica) and Real Esteli (Nicaragua), Sporting will advance to Champions League’s quarterfinals with four points in its last two games. While Peter Vermes’ team must still venture to San José next month, a win at home over Esteli (Sept. 23) and a draw at Saprissa puts Sporting into the next round.
Sporting carried a home team’s energy out of the locker room, eventually earning a penalty kick in the 12th minute after Saprissa goalkeeper Danny Carvajal took down Benny Feilhaber. Finishing into the right of goal, Dwyer gave his team an early lead, albeit one Kansas City would eventually give back.
That moment came in the 28th minute, when a layoff from Saprissa’s Daniel Colindres found Bustos just inside the Sporting penalty box. The midfielder finished high into Gruenebaum’s net to spark Saprissa’s hopes of taking an edge out of Sporting Park.
Dwyer and Toni nearly combined to quell those hopes before halftime, barely missing a go-ahead goal in the 40th minute. Mid-way through the second half, however, Toni made amends for the close call.
In the 69th minute, Toni took a cross from right back Igor Juliao an volleyed home the game-winning goal, with an easy finish off a Dwyer ball seven minutes later giving the Spaniard his third goal of the competition. Whereas one moment the Costa Ricans had hope of seeing out a 1-1, the 77th minute arrived with the match decided.
That decision leaves Vermes’ team in prime position to move on. Two-goal winners over Group 2’s stiffest competition, Sporting has reason to think they can get at least a point at Saprissa. Couple that with a home win over Esteli, and MLS’s champions are back in CCL’s final eight.