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Leagues Cup

Omar Fernández led an attacking blitz from the Liga MX side, who moved into the Leagues Cup semifinals with a convincing win over the hosts.

On a balmy evening at Children’s Mercy Park, Sporting Kansas City hosted Club León in the opening quarterfinal match of the 2021 Leagues Cup. The hosts took to the pitch ready to give their all in front of their home support against a side who have been one of Liga MX’s most successful teams, including a 2020 Apertura win.

León were in good form heading into the match, having registered back-to-back Liga MX wins over Querétaro and Club Tijuana and were hoping to make it a third straight against SKC. The hosts, for their part, have had a busy few weeks, but had lost just once in their last eight matches, and lead the Western Conference of the MLS by a point over fellow Leagues Cup participant Seattle Sounders.

In the early going, Kansas City had more of the ball, but León were able to break up the hosts’ play, with a free kick from Cisneros in a dangerous position going wide (8’). Shortly thereafter, León had a huge chance on the counter, but some fine play from John Pulskamp denied Víctor Dávila (10’). León began to grow into the match, as José Rodríguez tested Pulskamp from the edge of the area (12’) before Santiago Colombatto opened the scoring by punching home a loose ball (16’).

The hosts responded well, though, as Wilson Harris fired just over from the edge of the area (19’) before León, looking sharp on the break, got back on top, testing Peter Vermes’ side at every opportunity. It wasn’t long before Léon would even double their lead, with Omar Fernández hitting a powerful low shot past Pulskamp (27’) just before the cooling break. With a two goal lead in hand, the Liga MX side began to control the match more thoroughly, but neither side had a clear chance until Fernández got his brace with a lovely finish across goal on the stroke of halftime (44’).

At the half, while Sporting Kansas City made two substitutions, Ariel Holan kept his side unchanged, and Fernández nearly had his hat trick shortly after the restart (49’). León then had the ball in the net again but Dávila was flagged narrowly offside (56’). Sporting Kansas City responded with perhaps their best chance thus far, but Rodolfo Cota kept out Wilson Harris. An opener wasn’t long in coming, though — substitute Cameron Duke scored just after the hour, slotting home a low cross at the near post.

León responded, though, through Angel Mena, just a minute later, springing the offside trap to make it 4-1. That wasn’t all that the Liga MX side had in store — they would get a fifth with twenty minutes to play, as Chilean international Jean Meneses, on as a substitute for only five minutes finished off a fine bit of team play (72’). The bit between their teeth, Holan’s team kept the pressure up with an incredible sixth goal — this time there was no question Dávila was onside as he slammed home a wicked near-post finish (78’), with Mena getting his third assist.

With the win, Léon will be back in Leagues Cup action on September 14 or 15, facing the winner of Wednesday’s quarterfinal between Pumas and NYCFC. Omar Férnandez’s first-half brace saw him the GEICO Man of the Match Award, capping an impressive attacking performance from the Panzas Verdes.

*Photo by USA TODAY*

Leagues Cup Quarterfinal

Sporting Kansas City 1-6 Club Léon

Halftime: 0-3

Goals: Club Léon: Colombatto (16’), Fernández (27’, 44’), Mena (62’), Meneses (72’) Dávila (79’); Sporting Kansas City (Duke 61’)

Bookings: none

Sporting Kansas City: Pulskamp; Lindsey (Pierre 15’), Puncec, Rad, Dia; Harris, Walter (Kinda 45’), Ilie (c), Cisneros; Barber, Salloi (Duke 45’)

Substitutes: McIntosh, Martins, Pierre, Smith, Zusi, Duke, Espinoza, Kinda, Pulido

Manager: Peter Vermes

Club León: Cota; Ramírez, Mosquera, González, Tesillo (O. Rodríguez 66’); J. Rodríguez, Colombatto (Ambríz 87’); E. Hernández (J. Meneses 66’); Mena, Fernández (Zamudio 88’); Dávila (Gigliotti 79’)

Substitutes: Vázquez, Burón, O. Rodríguez, Ambríz, Meneses, Zamudio, Rangel, Gigliotti, León, Ormeño

Manager: Ariel Holan