Thursday, October 23, 2014

Sporting KC concludes 2014-15 CCL group stage in Costa Rica on Thursday

KANSAS CITY, KAN. ----- Sporting Kansas City concludes the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League group stage Thursday night in Costa Rica against Deportivo Saprissa.

The defending MLS Cup champions control their own destiny and will advance to the knockout stage with a win or draw. Sporting KC can also advance with a one-goal loss or a two-goal loss as long as Sporting KC scores two or more goals. Thursday's match will kick off at 9 p.m. CT and will be broadcast on FOX Soccer Plus.

Sporting KC is currently in first place in CCL Group 2 with seven points through three games. Saprissa is in second place in the group with four points and Nicaraguan side Real Esteli rounds out the group with two points after four matches.

Sporting KC opened the group stage in Nicaragua marking the second consecutive year the club played Real Esteli at Estadio Independencia to begin the tournament.

The match ended in a 1-1 draw on August 19. Sporting KC then earned back-to-back victories at Sporting Park, a 3-1 win over Saprissa on September 18 and a 3-0 result over Real Esteli on September 23.

Sporting KC is the only MLS team making a second consecutive appearance in the CCL and is unbeaten in the group stage over the past two years (4-0-3).

Winger Antonio Dovale has scored a goal or tallied an assist for Sporting KC in all three CCL matches this year. Dovale is second on the club's scoring chart with three goals in international competition, one behind Chris Brown. Meanwhile, goalkeeper Eric Kronberg has five shutouts in seven CCL appearances. His five clean sheets in competitive international matches are a club record.

Sporting KC All-Star and World Cup veteran Graham Zusi will not be available on Thursday as he serves his mandatory one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation. Saprissa defender Jordan Smith is also unavailable after receiving two cautions in his team's first three group stage matches.

Sporting KC defenders Matt Besler, Aurelien Collin, Igor Juliao and Seth Sinovic and midfielder Paulo Nagamura are all on yellow card warning and would be suspended for a potential quarterfinal first leg match if they pick up another caution Thursday night.

The CONCACAF Champions League features the top club from across North America, Central America and the Caribbean.

The winner of the tournament earns a berth in the 2015 FIFA Club World Cup. The tournament started in 1962 and was originally called the CONCACAF Champions' Cup before switching to the current format in 2008 (and now called the CONCACAF Champions League).

Sporting KC finished atop Group 2 standings in the 2013-14 edition of the tournament with a 2-0-2 record before falling 5-2 on aggregate in the quarterfinals to reigning champions Cruz Azul.

Fans are encouraged to follow the match online at or via Twitter @SKCGameday.