Sporting KC

With no margin for error remaining, Sporting KC hosts Colorado Rapids Saturday night

Graham Zusi fires off a shot for Sporting Kansas City in the second half against Columbus Crew SC at Children’s Mercy Park on Sunday. Sporting KC couldn’t find the back of the net and drew 0-0 against Columbus.
Graham Zusi fires off a shot for Sporting Kansas City in the second half against Columbus Crew SC at Children’s Mercy Park on Sunday. Sporting KC couldn’t find the back of the net and drew 0-0 against Columbus. Special to The Star

In the aftermath of last weekend’s crushing defeat at the L.A. Galaxy, Sporting Kansas City’s playoff hopes have never been bleaker. Sitting six points behind the final postseason spot, Sporting KC is at the point where it not only must win out, it’s dependent on other teams to drop points, too.

“We want to keep doing our best, but we know that we depend on other teams to make the playoffs, and that’s hard to have to think like that,” forward Gerso Fernandes said.

For a team that has made eight straight playoff appearances, it’s a tough pill to swallow, according to veteran right back Graham Zusi.

The last time Zusi didn’t make the playoffs, he was a rookie in 2009.

“We can’t look back on the weekend and let that define the rest of our season,” Zusi said. “I know for a fact that I’m going to fight and the team’s going to fight for the rest of the year, regardless if we’re in or out of the playoffs.”

Next up for Kansas City is the Colorado Rapids, who have looked like a rejuvenated team since Robin Fraser took over as coach. Since the firing of Anthony Hudson, the Rapids have gone 10-8-4 — not enough to push them into playoff contention, but enough to salvage what could have been a disaster of a season.

Vermes, who played internationally with Fraser, isn’t surprised by the Rapids’ surge under his leadership.

“He’s really good at what he does and I think he’s slowly putting his mark on the team and getting a chance to evaluate players,” Vermes said. “And they’re also having to perform to show him they’re going to be around for another year.”

Due to the managerial change, as well as the significant amount of time elapsed since these two last played, Vermes expects a different challenge Saturday night than last time out against the Rapids, which resulted in a 1-1 tie in March.

“I think everybody is different at this point,” Vermes said. “Whether you agree or not, the games at the end take on a different life; they’re almost like playoff games than they are regular-season games during the season.”

But one thing that has remained a constant throughout the season for Colorado is the pair of strikers who have been banging in goals. Former Sporting KC stalwarts Kei Kamara and Diego Rubio top charts for the Rapids — Kamara with 11 goals and Rubio with nine.

Rubio scored in the 1-1 tie the last time the two teams met.

“Two guys who are motivated — maybe a little bit extra motivated to play a former team — and two guys who are in pretty good form at the moment, scoring goals,” Zusi said of his former teammates. “We’ll have to look after them quite a bit.”

Sporting KC will need to beware Colorado’s ability to score from set pieces. The Rapids have scored a league-high 15 goals from set pieces this season. In contrast, Sporting has conceded seven goals from set-pieces — seventh-worst in MLS.

“The balls that they play in are quality and they’ve got plenty of guys that can finish it off as well, so one aspect of our game that we’ll have to be looking after and doing what we can to get the win,” Zusi said.

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Children’s Mercy Park.

Related stories from Kansas City Star

  Comments