Leagues Cup Recap: Sporting falls 4-1 to Toluca in Round of 32

Via Sporting Kansas City

Sporting Kansas City suffered elimination from Leagues Cup 2023 on Friday, falling 4-1 to Liga MX outfit Deportivo Toluca FC in the Round of 32 at Children’s Mercy Park.

Four years after losing 5-0 on aggregate to Sporting in the 2019 Concacaf Champions League, Toluca exacted revenge with two goals in each half to boot Sporting from the tournament and progress to the Round of 16 against Minnesota United FC on Tuesday.

Forward Willy Agada, returning from injury for his first appearance since April 15, salvaged a late consolation goal for Sporting, who will now have two full weekends off before embarking on the stretch run of their 2023 MLS regular season campaign. Manager Peter Vermes’ side will return to action on Saturday, Aug. 26, hosting the San Jose Earthquakes in a 7:30 p.m. CT kick at Children’s Mercy Park.

Coaching his 546th competitive match for Sporting and his 24th in international competitions, Vermes fielded an unchanged starting XI from Monday’s 1-0 group stage win over Chivas Guadalajara. This marked the first time Sporting has deployed the same lineup in consecutive matches since earning MLS home wins over Portland on May 28 and Dallas on May 31.

The hosts appeared to have a strong penalty kick claim after just five minutes when Sporting midfielder Gadi Kinda went down inside the box under defender Andres Mosquera’s aggressive challenge, but referee Jorge Camacho Peregrina was unconvinced and motioned for play to resume. Shortly thereafter, Sporting’s Erik Thommy—operating as a false nine for the second straight game—dragged a 25-yard shot wide of the target.

Goalkeeper John Pulskamp bailed Sporting out of trouble twice in the space of three minutes midway through the first half. Towering Toluca striker Pedro Raul raced onto an incisive through ball that had penetrated Kansas City’s backline and had only the 22-year-old keeper to beat, but Pulskamp extended his left leg to deflect the ball inches wide. Not long later, Raul settled a looping cross, cut centrally and struck from 12 yards, but Pulskamp dropped low to bat the ball aside.

However, Toluca would not be denied in the 29th minute. A patient attacking buildup, which began after Thommy appeared to have suffered a foul near midfield, culminated with Maximiliano Araujo whipping a teasing cross into the six-yard area. Attempting to clear the danger, Sporting center back Dany Rosero inadvertently planted a diving header into his own net as Toluca went ahead 1-0.

Raul doubled Toluca’s advantage three minutes later, tapping home at the doorstep off a square pass from fellow forward Robert Morales and putting Sporting firmly behind the eight ball.

Vermes’ men looked to cut into the deficit before halftime and carved out a good look in the 43rd minute. Captain Johnny Russell combined with Thommy before playing left back Tim Leibold into space on the channel. The German sized up a long-range strike and sent his left-footed piledriver marginally amiss.

Sporting thought they had grabbed a goal back in first-half stoppage time. Felipe Gutierrez eluded a pair of Toluca defenders and caromed a missile off the crossbar from 25 yards. Center back Andreu Fontas was on hand to coral the rebound and smash a shot into the top right corner, but the Spaniard was deemed to be in an offside position when Gutierrez had pulled the trigger.

Pulskamp did brilliantly to deny four minutes after the restart, diving left at full extension to cast the ball aside, but was left stranded in the 54th minute as Toluca bagged a third. Raul was the recipient of another clever through ball and crossed low to the penalty spot for an open Morales, who slotted into the corner for his second goal in the tournament.

The scoreboard looked grimmer for Sporting in the 63rd minute. On a dead ball restart. Toluca captain Valber Huerta sent a searching long ball over the top for Juan Dominguez, who coolly rounded Pulskamp and applied a simple finish to push the score to 4-0.

Agada impacted proceedings during the entirety of his substitute cameo and almost put Sporting on the scoresheet in the 79th minute by muscling off his marker and blasting a 15-yard sledgehammer off the crossbar. The ball remained alive on the rebound and Sporting’s Nigerian striker outlept a slew of opponents, only to see his header loop over the crossbar.

Undeterred, Agada found his goal in the 88th minute as Sporting avoided a shutout defeat. Substitute Marinos Tzionis played diagonally to veteran Roger Espinoza, who flicked a delightful service into the six-yard area for Agada. His initial diving header was repelled by Toluca keeper Tiago Volpi, but Agada made no mistake with the rebound by firing a deflected effort high into the left corner.

Agada’s goal was the final consequential play of the game, although Pulskamp added a pair of impressive saves in stoppage time to thwart Toluca’s bid for a fifth goal.

Leagues Cup 2023 | Round of 32
Children’s Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Attendance: 15,121
Weather: 81 degrees and sunny

Sporting Kansas City 1-4 Deportivo Toluca FC
Sporting Kansas City
Deportivo Toluca FC

Sporting Kansas City: John Pulskamp; Jake Davis (Kayden Pierre 57′), Dany Rosero, Andreu Fontas, Tim Leibold; Remi Walter, Felipe Gutierrez (Roger Espinoza 57′), Gadi Kinda (Willy Agada 71′); Khiry Shelton (Daniel Salloi 46′), Erik Thommy, Johnny Russell (C) (Marinos Tzionis 71′)

Subs Not Used: Kendall McIntosh, Tim Melia, Robert Castellanos, Logan Ndenbe, Robert Voloder, Cam Duke, Felipe Hernandez

Deportivo Toluca FC: Tiago Volpi; Brian Garcia, Andres Mosquera, Valber Huerta (C); Juan Dominguez, Claudio Baeza (Jesus Venegas 81′), Marcel Ruiz (Tomas Belmonte 69′), Jean Meneses (Jesus Ricardo Angulo 69′), Maximiliano Araujo (Mauricio Isais 40′); Pedro Raul, Robert Morales (Edgar Lopez 69′)

Subs Not Used: Ronaldo Beltran, Luis Garcia, Carlos Orrantia, Jesus Pinuelas, Abraham Villegas, Fernando Navarro, Isaias Violante

Scoring Summary:
TOL — Dany Rosero (own goal) 29′
TOL — Pedro Raul 2 (Robert Morales 2) 32′
TOL — Robert Morales 2 (Pedro Raul 1) 54′
TOL — Juan Dominguez 1 (Valber Huerta 1) 63′
SKC — Willy Agada 1 (unassisted) 88′

Misconduct Summary:
SKC — Felipe Gutierrez (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 19′
TOL — Pedro Raul (yellow card; time wasting) 61′
TOL — Robert Morales (yellow card; time wasting) 61′

Match Statistics
Shots on Goal
Corner Kicks

Referee: Jorge Abraham Camacho Peregrina
Assistant Referee: Manuel Alfonso Martinez Sanchez
Assistant Referee: Jaime Gonzalez
Fourth Official: Victor Alfonso Caceres Hernandez
VAR: Oscar Mejia Garcia
AVAR: Oscar Macias Romo

Derek Nester
Derek Nesterhttp://www.sunflowerstateradio.com
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2020 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.


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