Cruz Azul 5, Sporting Kansas City 1 | CONCACAF Champions League match recap
Sporting Kansas City had no answer for Mariano Pavone, and it cost them a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals.
The Cruz Azul forward scored early and often, recording a hat trick that lifted the Mexican side to a 5-1 rout in Wednesday night's second leg and a 5-2 aggregate win in the home-and-home quarterfinal series.
Cruz Azul's five goals on Wednesday night were four more than Sporting keeper Eric Kronberg had given up in five previous CCL starts.
Pavone scored in the second, 23rd and 55th minutes, his last tally proving to be the series-winner after Benny Feilhaber's 43rd-minute strike knotted the aggregate at 2-2 and put Sporting ahead on the away-goals tiebreaker.
He nearly had a fourth goal in the 66th, only to be denied by a sliding block from center back Matt Besler – and that just forestalled Sporting's misfortune by a few seconds, with Mauro Formica's putback making it 4-1 and clinching La Maquina's spot against Club Tijuana in an all-Liga MX semi.
The home side, trailing 1-0 on aggregate after the opening leg at Sporting Park, wasted little time leveling the score.
Joao Rojas sent a ball into the middle for Pavone, who spun away from right back Kevin Ellis and fired into the upper right of the goal. Sporting had an early chance to equalize when Jacob Peterson got free for a through ball in the ninth minute, but Jesus Corona made a sliding foot save to deny the winger.
Pavone made it 2-0 in the 23rd, putting Cruz Azul in the driver's seat, with an opportunistic putback from close range.
Christian Gimenez's long ball over the top found Marco Fabian all alone behind Sporting's back line, but Kronberg was able to save Fabian's low shot. It fell right to Pavone, who put it home for the 2-1 aggregate advantage.
Feilhaber gave Sporting fans hope heading into the intermission with his blistering finish inside the left post off a feed from Graham Zusi, but Sporting couldn't hold off Cruz Azul's second-half surge.
And if they had any hopes of pulling out a couple of late scores after Formica's putback, Gimenez laid them to rest in the 70th when he slipped past fullback Mechack Jerome and slotted Formica's cross home to make it 5-1.
Jerome was a first-half injury sub for Josh Gardner, who started at left back because Seth Sinovic was serving a one-match suspension for caution accumulation.
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.