Sporting KC ready to take on anyone in semifinals
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Sporting KC may be confident about their playoff chances, but there is no bulletin-board material coming out of Kansas City this week.
Publicly speaking, at least, there are no old scores to settle. No teams ripe for the picking. No venue more conducive than others when it comes to earning an all-important result on the road.
All Sporting know at this point is that they will play one of FC Dallas, Columbus or Colorado. Which of the three it ends up being isn’t terribly important.
“It doesn’t really matter, to be honest,” C.J. Sapong said at training this week. “Obviously, we owe Dallas one for the comeback that they had on us, but we don’t really care who it is. We’ll be ready no matter what.”
Should FC Dallas knock off the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday night at Pizza Hut Park (9 pm ET; FOX Soccer, TSN2; live chat on MLSsoccer.com), Sporting will draw FCD based on the fact that Schellas Hyndman’s team earned the top overall wild card seed.
If Dallas happen to lose in front of their home fans – a distinct possibility based on the trajectory of FCD and New York over the course of the season’s final month – Kansas City will play the winner of the Crew and Rapids.
No matter how it turns out, Sporting know they are more than capable of eliminating any squad they come up against. They were a perfectly even 2-2-2 against their prospective Eastern Conference semifinal opponents during the regular season, with one of those defeats coming in added time and the other during their brutal road trip to start the season.
“We’ve had some success against all these teams,” Davy Arnaud said. “At the end of the day, you’re going to play a home and away anyway, so I have no preference. We’ll be fine either way it turns out.”
And, truth be told, it’s easy to see why Kansas City would avoid devoting time or energy to worrying about something that’s out of their control.
They’ve lost just three times since Livestrong Sporting Park opened on June 9, two of which were in the final minutes, and have a full roster of players on form and nearly devoid of injury.
All told, the guys in the locker room are loose, enjoying the lead-up to their first playoff appearance since 2008, while manager Peter Vermes and the coaching staff remain focused yet distinctly relaxed, comfortable in the fact that Sporting have already faced a gamut of pressure situations during the regular season.
“The guys are confident,” Vermes said. “They should be confident. They’ve come a long way. We’ve knocked down some major hurdles along the way. But we’re definitely not overconfident. We’re extremely respectful of all the opponents out there that are in the playoffs. We realized that anything can happen with anybody.”
First, though, they’ll wait to find out exactly which team will represent their first hurdle in the postseason.
No matter who it ends up being – Dallas, Columbus or Colorado – SKC can approach this weekend’s road game with the knowledge they’re in the driver’s seat.
“The best thing is that we’re on a little bit of a run headed into the playoffs,” Sapong said. “This is what we wanted to do no matter if we were a wild card team or in first place. We took care of that and, if we keep it rolling, we’ll do well.”