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CONCACAF Champions League second leg preview

Ilie Sanchez, Johnny Russell, Matt Besler, Brad Evans

Sporting Kansas City midfielder Ilie Sanchez (6) is congratulated by teammates Johnny Russell (7), Matt Besler (5) and Brad Evans (4) after his goal during the second half of a CONCACAF soccer match against Toluca in Kansas City, Kan., Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)


The results from the first legs of the CONCACAF Champions League’s Round of 16 means the stakes in the return legs are all over the map.

But unless you’re Marathon and allowed six away goals to Santos Laguna -- yes, even if your Canadian club puked up a 4-0 loss in Panama -- the CONCACAF Champions League second legs present opportunities to advance to the quarterfinals.

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As stated, there were two 4-goal beatdowns. But only one of the losers in those instances feels a legit chance to bounce back. Toronto FC’s 4-0 loss to Independiente in Panama was a crime against Major League Soccer, but the Reds still have the fire power to spring a big win at BMO Field on Tuesday (even without Sebastian Giovinco). The odds are long, but not impossible.

The other MLS side to trail after one leg is Atlanta United, who fell 3-1 to Herediano in Costa Rica but is bringing back an away goal to Georgia for Thursday’s second leg. Should Frank de Boer’s Five Stripes complete the comeback, they’ll get the winner of Alianza and Monterrey. That one’s 0-0 after a leg in El Salvador.

Houston got a late DaMarcus Beasley goal to take a 1-0 lead away from Guastatoya in Guatemala, and will feel good about its chances of moving onto face the winner of Saprissa and UANL Tigres (The Costa Rican side leads 1-0 after one leg and is off to Mexico).

Red Bulls collected a comfortable enough 2-0 first leg win in the Dominic Republic against Atletico Pantoja, and can keep it pretty cool for Wednesday’s second leg Stateside and (probably) look ahead to next week’s likely match-up with Santos Laguna.

Finally, Sporting KC hammered Toluca 3-0 at home, and will not be overlooking their Liga MX opposition South of the border. Handling its business likely means Independiente. This could really be the CCL run long expected of Peter Vermes’ men.

Vermes’ mind is one of KC’s assets, but their depth and experience is very very important, too. The one X-factor -- advanced statisticians prepare to shudder -- is the mentality and mindset of career men Graham Zusi and Matt Besler. There’s little-to-no chance they will be unprepared for the test or overlook what it could mean to a team and league they’ve chosen over any other.

Follow @NicholasMendola