Top of the East: Sporting KC right where they want to be after "massive result"
Describing his club's away win as “a good result” was too tame for Peter Vermes' liking.
“Oh, no,” Vermes told MLSsoccer.com by phone after Sporting took over first place in the Eastern Conference with Wednesday night's 1-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls. “This was a massive result. Coming into Red Bull Arena and being able to walk out of here with three points, not giving any goals away is a massive result for us.”
A hard-fought one too, marked with hard tackles, harder fouls and cards – including Juninho's late ejection for kicking the ball at Sporting goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen as he prepared to take a goal kick.
“Look, Red Bull is a very good team,” Vermes said. “They have exceptional players on their team, and it was a dogfight from the opening whistle. We knew it was going to be. They had a couple of good chances, but we were a little bit lucky on the day.”
Midfielder Benny Feilhaber agreed with Vermes' take on the significance of Sporting's third straight win and fifth consecutive shutout.
“I think it's extremely important for us,” he said. “Everybody knows the way we play at home, and obviously, how important it is in MLS to pick up those points, but if we're a team that can come on the road into difficult places like New York and get points, then we're going to be a team that's where we want to be. That's at the top of the table, and make it deep into the playoffs.”
Sporting put the pressure on early, grabbing the eventual game-winner in the 13th minute on Aurelien Collin's header off Graham Zusi's corner kick.
“We talked about where we thought we could score a goal today with a set piece,” Vermes said. “We talked about some areas that were important to us on those set pieces. I thought it was an excellent delivery from Graham, and then Collin was big-time on the finish itself. He had great timing on the ball and good movement to get to that space.”
No second goal was forthcoming, though, and Sporting had to kill out the game with a slim lead. C.J. Sapong, who started out on the wing but finished up at center forward, taking a beating to kill the clock during the final minutes, earned high marks for his work in the corner.
“C.J. was very good at that aspect,” Vermes said. “A year ago, two years ago, he wouldn't have thought about doing that, but he was excellent at it tonight. He really helped us at the end of the game.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.