Inside a buzzing Sporting Kansas City locker room late Saturday, captain Matt Besler stood in front of his cubby and described a stunning, come-from-behind victory against Vancouver. The club had scored three goals over the final 14 minutes, culminating in a 4-3 victory that Besler considered perhaps the craziest, most unexpected win in his MLS career.
But in a mere instant, he tempered the excitement.
“We can’t get too carried away,” he said. “We’re in the middle of a very demanding stretch — physically and mentally. We can enjoy this, but we have to get ready for the next one.”
Four days after Sporting KC upended a first-place team with Paulo Nagamura’s stoppage-time goal, the club will welcome San Jose to Sporting Park for its third home match in eight days. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. The game will air on KMCI (Ch. 38).
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It follows a dramatic week.
Sporting KC defeated Real Salt Lake on Aug. 12 to reach the U.S. Open Cup championship match next month. And then the comeback came Saturday, when Sporting KC erased a 3-1 second-half deficit to defeat Vancouver in the final minute.
All in the past.
On Tuesday, before they took the field for practice, players and coaches met to reiterate a message: Back to business.
“I think it was a really emotional week for us,” forward Jacob Peterson said. “But, and we spoke about this at length, we can’t let ourselves drop the intensity. If we don’t match (San Jose’s) fight and work, they’re going to beat us. We know that. We just have to make sure we’re mentally ready.”
That’s been the emphasis all season — move on to the next match — but it’s been applied more often to defeats than victories.
Sporting KC has bounced back from each of its four losses this season by earning at least one point in the ensuing match. Coach Peter Vermes called it a defining characteristic of a team that leads MLS in points per match.
But it’s employed after wins, too.
“It’s probably harder to replicate the win,” Vermes said. “Usually you can find motivation coming off a loss. But that’s also part of being a good team. The highs can never be too high. The lows can never be too low. You’ve got to keep yourself in that steady state.”
That’s the mental battle Wednesday.
There could be a physical issue, too.
Sporting KC will be playing its fourth match in 12 days, and it remains shorthanded with injuries. Peterson, Jalil Anibaba, Graham Zusi and Soni Mustivar are all listed as questionable Wednesday.
“Not only in that (last) game, but in the games prior to that, I think we’ve expended a lot of energy,” Vermes said. “… I’m not so worried about the fashion in which we (won). I’m more concerned about the fact we’re playing so many games, and we have so many injuries in the team that you don’t have enough guys to spread around. That’s the difficult piece.”
To reach Sam McDowell, call 816-234-4869 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SamMcDowell11. Tap here to download The Star’s free Extra Time KC soccer app for iOS and Android devices.
San Jose Earthquakes at Sporting KC
▪ WHEN/WHERE: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Sporting Park
▪ TV/RADIO: KMCI (Ch. 38); KDTD (1340 AM)
▪ ABOUT SAN JOSE (8-10-5, 29 points): The Earthquakes have lost four straight road matches, and they've fallen to eighth place in the Western Conference. They have scored only 24 goals this season, the second fewest total in the league, which is a product of their inability to possess the ball. San Jose ranks last in MLS in possession and passing accuracy.
▪ ABOUT SPORTING KC (11-4-7, 40 points): The club is unbeaten inside Sporting Park, where it has outscored opponents 23-10 this season. It has climbed to third place in the Western Conference, three points behind the LA Galaxy, and it has played four fewer matches than the Galaxy … Graham Zusi (calf) returned to practice this week but is questionable to play Wednesday.
▪ BOTTOM LINE: Sporting KC has dominated few opponents inside its home venue like it has San Jose. It has won 10 straight home matches against the Earthquakes across all competitions, a stretch that dates back to 2004.
▪ PREDICTION: Sporting KC 2, San Jose 0
| Sam McDowell, email@example.com