KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Peter Vermes was in the vanguard of soccer's return to the American landscape, playing on the Italia '90 team that broke a 40-year World Cup drought and then in the fledgling MLS from 1996-2002.
So when Sporting Kansas City's manager watched the US national team earn a key point in World Cup qualifying with Tuesday's scoreless away draw against Mexico, with two of his club players in the starting lineup and a squad full of current and former MLSers, his pride was more than national.
“I remember when MLS was coming on board,” said Vermes, who won an MLS Cup with the then-Wizards in 2000. “And at that time, I remember the national team coaches speaking about how finally they were going to have a place where they were going to have a pool of players that were playing every day in a professional league, and they were going to be able to pull from that group of players.
“Each game – friendly, qualification, what-have-you, they'd be able to pick the guys who were in form the most and be able to scout them in this country,” added Vermes, speaking on Thursday at Sporting's weekly news conference. "It's changed the way everything is.”
All 14 players who took the field for the US – including Sporting's Matt Besler and Graham Zusi, who both started for Jurgen Klinsmann's side – either play or played in MLS.
“I think it's really cool that our American league really showed well and represented MLS in a game like that, with such high implications, against that team in a stadium that not many people have had success in,” Zusi said on Thursday. “It really says a lot about our league and its growth and its past as well, with guys like Clint Dempsey. I don't know if a lot of people realize that he started here. Michael Bradley. All those guys started in MLS, and that says a lot about our league's past, future and what's to come.”
Even Mexico's squad had a dash of MLS flavor on Tuesday. World Cup veteran Omar Bravo, who came on as a second-half sub for El Tri, was a Designated Player for Sporting in 2011.
“I was actually kind of excited when I saw Omar come into the game,” Vermes said. “He's another guy who was here with this club. He's 33 and he's still getting a call-up to the national team. So, yeah, I think it's great that those guys are playing at that level.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.