Mar 20, 2014, 12:59 AM EDT
The defending Major League Soccer champions didn’t give fans much to talk about. After Wednesday’s performance in Mexico City, most MLS supporters will prefer to forget than discuss. Though Benny Feilhaber’s late first half goal gave Sporting Kansas City an away goals edge going into halftime at Estadio Azul, the second leg of Sporting’s CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal was all Cruz Azul. With three goals from Mariano Pavone and insurance from Mauro Formica and Cristian Giménez, La Machina are through to the tournament’s semifinals, their 5-1 demolition of the MLS Cup holders belittling any notion Sporting could preserve the 1-0 lead that earned in Kansas.
Given what we’ve seen over the last four years from a physical, often oppressive Kansas City quad, the result was a complete shock, one that reminded viewers of a era they thought dead. It wasn’t so long ago that MLS teams would go to Mexico can be embarrassed by teams that looked far superior to their MLS counterparts, yet in recent years, the league had made strides. But between the Galaxy’s performance in Tijuana and Sporting’s performance in the capital, MLS turned back the clock. The difference in class between Xolos as Cruz Azul was shocking to those used to seeing the Galaxy and Kansas City near the top of MLS’s standings.
Wednesday’s shock started in the second minute, when Joao Rojas set up Pavone for the host’s opening goal. Twenty-one minutes later, Liga MX’s leaders had completely reversed its leg one deficit, with the Argentine’s second goal of the night giving them a 2-1 aggregate lead. Within 23 minutes, all the hopes Sporting had of carrying their MLS success into Champions League seemed to have evaporated.
Then came their moment of hope. Dribbling around Marco Fabian at the edge of the penalty box, Feilhaber drilled a shot from 20 yards out at goalkeeper José de Jésus Corona’s lower right hand corner. Unable to get down for the ball quick enough, Corona could not prevent Sporting from taking an advantage into half-time, the 2-2 aggregate score giving the visitors the away goals tiebreaker.
Whatever hope came with that advantage evaporated within 10 minutes. That’s when Pavone, in the 55th minute, completed his hat trick. Then came Fórmica’s goal (66′). Then Gímenez’s (70′). As bad as the Galaxy were in the first half against Tijuana, Sporting may have been worse, and for longer, against Cruz Azul. Relentless, ruthless, and intent on building an insurmountable lead, La Machina laid highlighted the lingering Liga MX-MLS divide.
For Sporting, it was a bad night. It was a terrible night. It was a night that nobody around the MLS champions could have envisioned when they took off for Mexico City. And if anybody near Cruz Azul saw this coming, their veins are probably full of Machina blue. This was an aberration.
But it’s an aberration that broke against MLS, and embarrassingly so. This was MLS’s best, as crowned in December. And it was Mexico’s best, according to the current standings. While Cruz Azul does have the advantage of being fully in-season, is that advantage worth four goals? Especially when Sporting knew this game was coming? Considering the Galaxy ultimately lost by one in Tijuana while San Jose get a draw at Toluca, it’s difficult to apply the “out of season” excuse.
Sporting were just bad, giving a performance they won’t be able to redeem until the next Champions League. On a night when San Jose nearly advanced to the semifinals, the defending champions provided a stark, surprising contrast to MLS’s positive potential.
Aug 27, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT
Reports indicate Chelsea striker Diego Costa has suffered a hamstring injury that will keep him out of the side for four to six weeks.
Aug 27, 2014, 10:24 PM EDT
Cameroon striker Samuel Eto’o has announced his retirement from international football.
Aug 27, 2014, 9:36 PM EDT
The BBC is reporting that Calum Chambers, Danny Rose and Fabian Delph are all set for England call-ups.
Aug 27, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT
Lazio is most interested in the American’s services but the recent injury casts doubt on the likelihood of a transfer.
Aug 27, 2014, 7:55 PM EDT
QPR and Aston Villa followed Manchester United’s lead in crashing out of the League Cup to clubs from the Football League.
Aug 27, 2014, 7:02 PM EDT
Ludogorets defender Cosmin Moti took the gloves and saved two penalties to help his side advance to the Champions League group stage.
Aug 27, 2014, 6:07 PM EDT
Let’s take a look at five more clubs and how they will wheel and deal before the window slams shut.
Aug 27, 2014, 5:43 PM EDT
The loss of Giroud skyrockets the possibility of Wenger soon moving to sign another pure striker.
Aug 27, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
Reports across Europe claim that Xabi Alonso has reached an agreement with Bayern Munich.
Aug 27, 2014, 3:40 PM EDT
“The hardest thing is knowing when to say goodbye,” Xabi Alonso said.
Aug 27, 2014, 2:47 PM EDT
Balotelli aims big as new Liverpool signing speaks out.
Aug 27, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT
Guardiola gives Muller a piece of his mind during Bayern’s open practice session.
Aug 27, 2014, 1:47 PM EDT
Fazio heads to White Hart Lane on four-year deal from Sevilla.
Aug 27, 2014, 1:14 PM EDT
As conflict continues between Israel, Hamas, UEFA has stepped in to postpone qualifier.
Aug 27, 2014, 12:32 PM EDT
Following United’s embarrassing 4-0 defeat to a third-tier team, the UK media have not been kind.
Aug 27, 2014, 12:01 PM EDT
Soccer in Sin City… why not? Stadium deal gets over next hurdle, hinges on MLS team heading to Nevada.
Aug 27, 2014, 11:22 AM EDT
All the latest transfer gossip, right here.
Aug 27, 2014, 9:42 AM EDT
After Oliver Giroud’s bad injury, will Arsenal spend big to bring in Cavani?
Aug 27, 2014, 9:12 AM EDT
Have your say on where van Gaal’s side will finish this campaign.
Aug 27, 2014, 8:46 AM EDT
Eagles swoop to hand former boss his second stint in charge at Selhurst Park.
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