It sure seems more like a mountain than a molehill for a Sporting Kansas City squad that has struggled to score goals at times this season.
It’s also the minimum top-seeded Sporting KC, the two-time reigning Eastern Conference regular-season champion, needs to win by to stay alive in the MLS playoffs during the second leg of the conference semifinals at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Livestrong Sporting Park.
“We’re down two at halftime, but we’re going to come back in the second leg,” Sporting KC left back Seth Sinovic said. “We’re going to come back and win it. There’s plenty of game left.”
The postgame locker room was quiet, but if there was any outpouring of anger or frustration from a 2-0 loss Sunday against the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium, it passed quickly — before coach Peter Vermes’ seven-minute chat with the media had finished.
“This game is over now, and we know what we have to focus on for the rematch,” captain and goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen said. “There’s no time to be frustrated or to be sad. It’s time to show who you are and step up and show we’re a playoff team as well.”
Besides, as daunting as a 2-0 deficit might seem, Sporting KC didn’t seem resigned to the next game being its last of the season.
“It seems a little bigger than it is,” midfielder Graham Zusi said. “A goal at half and we’re right back in it, so I don’t see it as an insurmountable feat whatsoever, especially when we’re back at home.”
Conventional wisdom says the Dynamo will bunker in defensively, betting that Sporting KC can’t muster two goals with an abundance of traffic in the penalty box.
Again, Sporting KC is ready for whatever.
“I wouldn’t mind if they did that,” Zusi said. “That means we’d have 90 minutes of attacking. If they sit back and let us come at them for 90 minutes, I’ll take our chances. I think we’d have a pretty decent chance of getting two goals.”
Bottom line: It’s not the position Sporting KC hoped to find itself in, but — even as most pundits and plenty of fans might be tempted to write off their chances — it’s a challenge the club welcomes.
“We don’t want to be down 2-0, but there’s not one person on our team that doesn’t think we can come back and win this next game 3-0, 4-0, 5-0. We’re going to come back, play this next leg and see what happens.”