Sporting Kansas City opened it season in emphatic fashion Thursday.
Sporting KC stunned Mexican club Deportivo Toluca FC on Thursday night in the first leg of the 2019 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16.
Krisztian Nemeth, Gerso Fernandes and Ilie Sanchez provided the goals at Children's Mercy Park as Sporting became the second American team since the dawn of the Champions League in 1962 to defeat a Mexican opponent by three goals.
Sporting and Toluca will meet again in the decisive Round of 16 second leg on Feb. 28 at Estadio Nemesio Diez in Toluca, Mexico. Sporting can advance to the Champions League quarterfinals with a win, a draw or a loss by two or fewer goals.
“I think there's no doubt that the ability for us to play through as good a team as Toluca is pretty impressive,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. “I think, at the end of the day, you have to commend our guys. We have quality guys on our team. They worked very, very hard. Ever since the last game last year, they kind of knew what was in front of us. We had a big talk about it. We laid out a plan physically while they were in their offseason. They did the work and we started a little bit earlier than we normally would have.”
Playing their earliest competitive match in club history, Sporting handed Toluca its first defeat to an MLS foe since 1998.
After an early chance for Toluca, Sporting KC dominated scored 35 minutes on the clock. Captain Matt Besler lofted a lovely ball over the top for Fernandes to chase down the left wing. The forward scurried into the penalty area and laid the ball off for Nemeth, who fired low past goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera.
Fernandes doubled Sporting's advantage in the 52nd minute, playing a give-and-go with Felipe Gutierrez and booting the ball into the roof of the net from six yards out after Toluca failed to clear it.
Sanchez added sealed the win with a jaw-dropping volley from 20 yards out. Another wave of Sporting pressure was initially repelled, but the ball skipped into the path of Sanchez at the top of the box. He rocketed a shot that caromed off the crossbar and into the net.
Toluca saw its winless streak hit six games in all competitions.