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Preview: Sporting KC hosts Toluca in knockout round of Leagues Cup

SKC faces another strong Liga MX team



Thommy vs Chivas | Credit: Thad Bell

Leagues Cup Round of 32

Who:  Sporting Kansas City vs Toluca FC

When: Friday, August 4th, 2023 at 8:00 p.m. CT

Where: Children’s Mercy Park| Kansas City

Watch:  Apple TV

English Radio | Sports Radio 810 WHB

Spanish Radio | La Grande 1340 AM

Sporting Kansas City plays host to Toluca FC at 8 p.m. CT on Friday in the Leagues Cup Round of 32. Toluca. This is the first knockout stage of the Leagues Cup.

Toluca finished first in Group 4 of the Central Region while Sporting KC was runner up in Group 3. Toluca beat Nashville 4-3 in a back-and-forth match that even saw their keeper take a penalty. Toluca next defeated the Colorado Rapids 4-1. The visitors dominated the Rapids in the stats, but it was late in the game when most of the goals were scored, including two penalties in stoppage time.

Sporting KC advanced after a 3-3 draw at FC Cincinnati and a 1-0 win at home over Chivas. SKC played well at Cincy in a game that had two own goals, two penalties, a red card and 98th minute come back for the home team. Sporting KC took a 2-0 lead (Cincy own goal and Rosero goal) before going a man down when Alan Pulido received a red card.

Cincinnati took advantage of being a man up to level it before SKC again took the lead despite being a man down. A late handball in the box let Cincy tie it up again. With mostly tired defenders on the pitch, SKC fell in the penalty shootout to only earn a single point while Cincy took two.


Felip Gutierrez vs Toluca in 2019 : Credit: Thad Bell

Chivas also went down a man in Cincinnati in their 3-1 loss spread over two days with weather delays.

That set up the final game of the group stage with SKC at home versus Chivas and both teams needing wins to advance. Despite a very pro Chivas crowd in Kansas City and missing Pulido, SKC took control of the game early and kept it most of the match. With Erik Thommy as a false nine, a creative midfield was fluid and kept Chivas on the back foot throughout the game. Captain Johnny Russell scored the game winner in the 27th minute and the home team advanced.

While Chivas is in first place (3-0-0) early in the Liga MX season, they rarely looked like they were ready to play in either Leagues Cup match. They are probably in need of an Alan Pulido type forward.

Toluca is in seventh place (1-1-1) in Liga MX but has looked good in their two group stage games. While not as well-known as Club America and Chivas, Toluca is a historic powerhouse with ten championships. Trailing only America with 13 and Chivas with 12. Toluca is tied with the Philadelphia Union with eight goals scored in the group stage. Toluca’s goals were scored by seven different players.

Sporting KC and Toluca have met twice before in the 2019 Concacaf Champions League Round of 16. SKC won both legs (3-0, 2-0) to advance to the next round.

False Nine again?

Sporting KC will still be without Alan Pulido who is serving the second game of his punishment for the incident in Cincy. Manager Peter Vermes understandably would not reveal who will fill the center forward role against Toluca. Thommy filled the false nine role well but Vermes has options. Willy Agada is in full practice but would be unlikely to start as he is regaining fitness after being out for a stress fracture. Khiry Shelton has played there often in the past but has seen more time at the wing this year. Vermes could move other wingers in or bring Gadi Kinda or Felipe Gutierrez forward as well.


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