At Jacob Peterson’s introductory press conference, Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes mentioned that he’d tried to acquire the veteran forward in the past.
During a 2-0 win Saturday against Toronto FC at Livestrong Sporting Park, his first MLS start since signing with Sporting KC in January, Peterson provided a glimpse into why Vermes has always been so high on him.
Peterson whipped several dangerous crosses into the box from the right side, where he started as a midfielder but played more like a winger.
Eventually, that led to the game-winning assist on C.J. Sapong’s team-leading fifth goal of the season in the 18th minute.
“He was busy, he was active and he put a lot of pressure on those guys,” Vermes said of Peterson. “He and (right back) Chance (Myers) had some good combination play there on the outside and were terrorizing them early in the game, which put them on their heels.”
With Bobby Convey sidelined with a calf injury and right winger Kei Kamara away on international duty, Peterson was pressed into action and responded with an inspired performance.
“We’ve said from the beginning that our depth is incredible and I thought Jake had a great game tonight,” midfielder Graham Zusi said. “He really threatened their defense with some early balls across and could have had a couple more assists, but those early crosses were very important tonight.”
Afterward, Peterson admitted that facing his former club gave him added motivation to come out playing with his hair on fire.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t,” Peterson said. “Any time you play your former club, people want to be politically correct and say the right things, but there’s no doubt I didn’t particularly enjoy my time up there.”
Peterson played 24 games for Toronto FC in 2010, including 15 starts with a goal and two assists. He started 13 games in 2011 before being traded to the San Jose Earthquakes midseason.
“Certainly, there was a little extra motivation,” Peterson said. “And I think we play them a couple more times, and I’m sure it will be there those times as well.”
But according to Vermes and Peterson’s teammate, the frenetic pace he showed was nothing new.
“It was just a matter of time for him,” Zusi said. “He’s such a hard worker. You know whenever he gets his chance that he’s going to make the most of it. He had a great game tonight all around.”
And Sporting KC fans may have only seen a glimpse of Peterson’s ability even with that superlative performance against Toronto.
“Jake, from my time with him, one of the qualities that he has you haven’t even seen yet, is that he’s very good in front of the goal,” said Vermes, who worked with Peterson during his time as an assistant coach with the U.S. under-20 men’s national team. “He’s a good finisher. He’s still getting used to the way we play, but I saw some great things tonight – especially his runs off the ball and combinations with Teal (Bunbury) and Zeus. I know that will continue to get better.
“When he gets in front of the goal, he can finish. He’s got a clinical aspect to his game, where he can finish balls from different places. We’ll see more of that as time goes on.”