Considering they were facing the top team in Liga MX, Sporting Kansas City will probably be satisfied with their 1-0 win over Cruz Azul in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal on Wednesday. That accomplishment was made all the more impressive considering Cruz Azul put out pretty close to a full-strength starting lineup.
But Sporting KC will likely be finding themselves somewhere between breathing a sigh of relief and feeling as though they missed an opportunity to really give themselves a chance to become just the second MLS team in history to eliminate a Mexican opponent from CCL.
Sporting Kansas City managed to get on the board first, turning a solid spell of possession into a goal in the 17th minute. Homegrown Player Kevin Ellis, who was only starting because normal starting right back Chance Myers is still nursing an injury, scored his first professional goal off a nice feed from Claudio Bieler. Ellis got the ball on the right wing, took a few dribbles to beat his defender and then fired a short inside the near post from about 14 yards out. Paolo Nagamura was in an offside position, but was apparently ruled to have not interfered with the goalkeeper.
Ellis, who first signed with Sporting KC in 2011, had only made two MLS regular-season starts in his career.
Bieler nearly doubled the lead in the 44th minute, taking a ball over the top and getting free of his defender on a nice cutback. But Cruz Azul goalkeeper JJ Corona was able to get just enough of Bieler's shot to force it wide.
Sporting KC went into halftime having dominated Cruz Azul, but had just a single goal to show for it.
That lead proved particularly precarious as Cruz Azul threatened to overwhelm KC in the early stages of the second half.
Ike Opara cleared a ball off the line in the 55th minute when Mariano Pavone got behind the Sporting KC back line and then rounded the keeper. Sporting KC got a bit lucky on the ensuing corner, as Benny Feilhaber's handball off Marco Fabian's header went uncalled and then Seth Sinovic cleared the rebound off the line. Although it was a bang-bang play, Feilhaber should probably consider himself lucky that he wasn't given a straight red card.
Shortly after that, though, KC started to get back in the flow. They nearly doubled their lead again when Graham Zusi fired a shot from 25 yards that struck the crossbar.
The final stages of the match got a bit chippy with several yellow cards being handed out to both teams.
The return leg will be played next Wednesday in Mexico City.