Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes wasn’t agitated in the aftermath of Friday’s tie against Toronto FC at Sporting Park.
Despite blowing two leads while playing with a man advantage, Vermes talked about being proud of Sporting KC’s performance, even with the 2-2 result.
Normally, it’s the kind of game — Toronto FC salvaged a point with a stoppage-time goal — that would drive a coach crazy, but Vermes’ calm and calculated response reflects the challenges Sporting KC faces at the moment.
Sporting KC, 5-4-3, was missing four starters, had three more key reserves absent and lost right back Chance Myers, who was forced to start at center back because of the roster wreckage, to injury in the 36th minute.
Still, the reigning MLS Cup champions outshot Toronto FC 17-7, had more corner kicks and open-play crosses and controlled 67.8 percent of the possessions.
“We have high expectations for the way we want to play and the way we want to find success,” Vermes said. “Every time we come out on the field, we want to get results. The great thing is the mentality of the team is very good even though we’re pretty depleted in a lot of areas of the field.”
It’s not going to get any easy anytime soon for Sporting KC.
Midfielder Graham Zusi and center back Matt Besler will be away from the team for the foreseeable future. Both made the roster cut for the U.S. men’s national team and are slated to play in the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Center back Aurelien Collin remains sidelined because of a strained hamstring, and defensive midfielder Uri Rosell is out because of a strained quad.
Myers will have season-ended surgery Wednesday to repair a ruptured left Achilles’ tendon.
Defender Ike Opara also is out for the season after ankle surgery, and midfielder Peterson Joseph remains sidelined indefinitely.
Eventually, defender Lawrence Olum will return from international duty for Kenya and Erik Palmer-Brown’s one-game suspension is finished, but Vermes faces some challenging decisions putting together his squad for tonight against the New York Red Bulls and moving forward.
Of course, Sporting KC won’t use that as an excuse.
“I don’t think it’s really a weathering thing,” starting left back Seth Sinovic, who finished Friday at center back, said after Friday’s tie. “We should have won tonight. All things considered, we should have won that game. We feel capable of playing with anybody and beating anybody regardless who’s on the field.”
Forward Dom Dwyer, who is tied with Red Bulls striker Bradley Wright-Phillips for the MLS lead with 10 goals, rankled at the notion that Sporting KC was depleted.
“I don’t like the term ‘depleted lineup,’ ” Dwyer said. “We’re missing guys who may start and guys are on international duty, but we have such depth on our squad. … Obviously, we’re short of guys, but I wouldn’t say it’s a huge concern. We have the guys to make it work.”
Sporting KC didn’t nab the full three points against Toronto FC, but collecting wins — even without a handful of key contributors from last season’s championship team — is still the only goal for Vermes’ squad.
“It’s a challenge, but I think our team is going to rise to that challenge,” goalkeeper Eric Kronberg said. “We rose to the challenge (against Toronto FC) and played good enough to win. Unfortunately, that last minute was a tough one, but we’re going to rise to every challenge we have.
“Guys are going to step up and play Sporting soccer, trust in our system and trust in the way we play. That’s going to get us results in the long run.”
Obviously, Friday’s tie wasn’t the result Sporting KC wanted, but Vermes is proud of the way his squad is handling adversity and is encouraged by the team’s performance against Toronto FC.
“If you can play like that, with all the things that we’ve had, I think we’re in a good place,” he said.
New York Red Bulls at Sporting Kansas City
WHEN/WHERE: 7 tonight at Sporting Park
TV/RADIO: ESPN2; WHB (810 AM)
ABOUT NEW YORK (3-5-5): A three-game losing streak dropped the Red Bulls to sixth place in the Eastern Conference. It's not hard to diagnose the problem: They allowed nine goals in their last four matches. Bradley Wright-Phillips is tied with Dom Dwyer for the MLS lead with 10 goals.
ABOUT SPORTING KC (5-4-3): Old habits die hard. Sporting KC gave up yet another stoppage-time goal and settled for a 2-2 draw against Toronto FC on Friday, extending its winless streak to three matches. Dwyer was the silver lining once again, scoring twice. Despite recent struggles, Sporting KC remains in tied for second in the Eastern Conference.
BOTTOM LINE: A match featuring the top two goal scorers in the MLS should provide plenty of space for both to work with. Both clubs have stumbled defensively in recent weeks.
PREDICTION: Sporting KC 2, New York 2
| Sam McDowell, email@example.com