Hometown hero gives Sporting Kansas City first-leg win over Cruz Azul in CCL quarters
Sporting Kansas City has a new hometown hero, and his name isn't Matt Besler. Kevin Ellis' first competitive professional goal was all that Sporting needed for an important 1-0 win over Liga MX leaders Cruz Azul in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals on Wednesday night.
A native of Kansas City who rose up the club's youth ranks to become its second Homegrown Player signing, Ellis scored his goal in the 17th minute. The strike was made possible by a nice cross-field ball from Claudio Bieler, which Ellis received on the left side of the penalty box before cutting in on his right foot and firing a low shot past Cruz Azul goalkeeper Jesus Corona at the near post.
Sporting KC continued to pressure the Mexican side through the remainder of the first half, but looked capable of giving up a goal on the other end as players tired in the second. Mariano Pavone found himself in on goal in the 54th minute, and though his shot beat goalkeeper Eric Kronberg, Sporting defender Ike Opara managed to recover to knock the ball out for a corner kick.
Cruz Azul had a legitimate shout for a penalty kick on that subsequent corner, when Benny Feilhaber deflected a header off the goal line with his hand. Graham Zusi followed that up with a thunderbolt shot at the other end that had Corona beaten, but smacked the crossbar.
Sporting will visit Estadio Azul in Mexico City for the return leg in one week's time, but before that they play their second league match of the young MLS season against FC Dallas on Saturday at Sporting Park. Cruz Azul, meanwhile, will look to recover from two consecutive losses in all competitions with a league match against fellow Champions League participants Tijuana on Saturday.