Sporting Kansas City has reached the midpoint of its season 17 games played and 17 more to go.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
At the moment, coach Peter Vermes squad, which owns the last two Eastern Conference regular-season titles, is tied for third in the conference standings.
With 26 points, Sporting KC, 7-5-5, sits three points behind the Montreal Impact, which has played two fewer games, and two points behind the New York Red Bulls, who have played one additional match.
Western Conference front-runners Real Salt Lake leads the Supporters Shield standings with 33 points from 18 games, while both FC Dallas and the Portland Timbers FC own 30 points through 17 games.
In other words, Sporting KC remains right in the thick of what should be a tense, tight race for the MLS points championship as well as home-field advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Its a good spot to be in, but Sporting KC still knows it hasnt played its best soccer.
Weve played some outstanding soccer and had some outstanding games, but unfortunately weve been on the other end, too, goalkeeper and captain Jimmy Nielsen said. Weve talked about it and weve been practicing very hard to find who we are. We know who we want to be, but we have to get out there and deliver it on the field.
Consistency remains the buzzword for Vermes.
Weve had our ups and downs, Vermes said. As much as weve kept ourselves competitive in the table, in the conference and the Supporters Shield chase as well, we lacked some consistency.
Its never one thing. There are contributing factors and the guys coming in and going out is one. Were still trying to get some new guys that are here to adapt and adjust and acclimate to who we are. But what I do like is that weve kept ourselves in a good position.
Sporting KC begins the second half of the season at 8 tonight against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
Weve got to recognize moments in the game when its time to battle and when its time to play, Nielsen said. We added more possession to our style before the season, but were figuring out that it doesnt always have to be beautiful. At the end of the day, its all about the results. The last few games after the little break, against Dallas and against Columbus, was a step in the right direction. Im very optimistic about the rest of the season.
The goals havent changed qualify for the playoffs, win the Eastern Conference and secure home-field advantage, challenge for the Supporters Shield and then win the MLS Cup.
Our division has never been so tight as it is right now, Nielsen said. Its very exciting to watch from week to week how things are developing in our division. If we could win our division again, that would be fantastic, but at the end of the day weve got to stand with the MLS Cup. I would take fifth in the division if that means finishing up with the MLS Cup. Thats what we are playing for.