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Sporting KC tops Chivas de Guadalajara, advances to Leagues Cup knockout round

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Posted at 11:26 AM, Aug 01, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-01 12:39:36-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Sporting Kansas City captain Johnny Russell buried a one-timer into the right corner of Chivas de Guadalajara's net in the 27th minute Monday night to secure a 1-0 win.

With the win, Sporting KC advanced to the knockout round of the inaugural Leagues Cup, one of 32 teams to move on from group play at the North American club soccer tournament.

Chivas de Guadalajara sits atop Liga MX, Mexico's top soccer league, with nine points from three games early in the 2023-24 season. They are the only Liga MX side to win their first three games.

Russell said he knew the match was a “must-win” that required the confidence Sporting KC showed in last week's 3-3 draw and shootout loss against MLS Supporters Shield leader FC Cincinnati.

“That's probably our best performance all year and that's what people expect of us and that's what we expect of ourselves,” Russel said. “That’s why this year's been so disappointing, because we've shown the last two games what we're capable of as a team and we haven't done it enough this year. It's been disappointing up until now but when you get nights like that and you play like that, you’ve got to enjoy it.”

Despite sitting in 11th place in the MLS Western Conference with a 6-8-11 record, Sporting racked up four points in the group stage and advanced as the second-place team in the Central 3 group.

Manager Peter Vermes said the team put on a “heck of a performance” at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas, in shutting out a hungry Chivas squad, which is tied for the Liga MX with seven goals through three games.

“Instead of us worrying about entertaining tonight, the most important thing was to get the win,” Vermes said. “But based on our style of play, I think we entertained and we won.”

Chivas was eliminated after having lost to FC Cincinnati last week.

Sporting will host Deportivo Toluca FC, another Liga MX team, at 8 p.m. Friday at Children's Mercy Park with a spot in the round of 16 at stake. Tickets can be purchased online.

Toluca won its group, beating Nashville FC 4-3 last week and crushing the Colorado Rapids 4-1 on Monday night.

Sporting KC played without forward Alan Pulido, who missed the match after receiving a red card in the shootout loss against FC Cincinnati.

Leagues Cup increased Pulido's suspension to two games, determining that his first-half headbutt constituted violent conduct, so he will miss the Toluca match as well.

The Leagues Cup runs four weeks and features three countries and two leagues — MLS and Liga MX.