An emotionally charged, fiery soccer coach sat down in front of his office TV last week, opened his DVD player and inserted a disc showcasing the pinnacle of his managing career.
Five months after winning the MLS championship, Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes took control of the remote and pressed play on the title-clinching match.
It was his first time.
“I’ve honestly never watched the game,” Vermes said. “It’s not like I’m very interested in doing this, to be honest with you.”
For the next half hour, Vermes spun through the biggest moments of the penalty-kick victory against Real Salt Lake on Dec. 7. It was by request, of course.
He was stoic, even emotionless, as he described the plays that brought Kansas City its first major professional championship in more than a decade. And when Real Salt Lake defender Lovel Palmer blasted his penalty kick off the crossbar, clinching Sporting KC’s title, Vermes hardly reacted.
Old news, he said.
“It’s over. I have to get on with everything else,” Vermes said. “It’s hard to explain. There’s not a lot of time. We’re so engulfed in getting the team ready for the next match and looking down the road and what’s going to be our difficulties moving forward and all those things.”
More focused on repeating the past than memorializing it, Vermes and players took a moment Sunday to look back.
Sporting KC received its championship rings before Sunday afternoon's match against Columbus at Sporting Park.
“It’s going to be a special day. It’s something we worked really hard for,” Sporting KC captain Matt Besler said last week. “For me, I’ve always watched these things on TV — in soccer and other sports. I’ve always wondered what that would be like having a ring ceremony in front of your fans. I’m looking forward to getting to experience that.”
It will surely remind Vermes of recent history, too — of what his team accomplished five months ago — but that’s usually an excuse to focus on the future.
In fact, it didn’t take him long to get there after watching the final plays of the MLS Cup final.
“I think it helps the staff. I think the players take on another level of belief in the system,” Vermes said, his first observation after shutting off the TV.
His confidence in the team’s style of play bleeds through as he analyzes sequences during last year’s final. And he uses it as evidence that it will work again.
The system hasn’t seen any changes a year later. Sporting KC is 3-2-2 in its first seven MLS matches as it tries to defend the Cup.
“We really are approaching everything the same way we have the past couple of years,” Besler said.
Same approach. But with a different level of belief.
“I think when you have ups and downs, or you give up a late goal here or there, you go back to your system,” Besler said. “We don’t get too high or too low because we believe in our system. We feel like it’s credited.”
That mind-set comes straight from the coach.
“Peter’s the same,” Sporting KC defender Aurelien Collin said. “We were champions last year, and that’s good, but the past is the past for him. That’s how he is, so that’s how we are.”
Vermes has leaned on those past success this season, he says, but he isn’t much for celebrating them.
Perhaps that will come later, he determines, after he has retired from coaching. Perhaps one day he will take an afternoon, sit on his couch and watch the the most fulfilling accomplishment of his coaching career. This time, by choice.
“Well,” he says. “Maybe.”