Sporting KC look to put an end to missed opportunities as stretch run heats up

Jimmy Nielsen

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USA Today Sports

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – After missing their chance to take over the Supporters' Shield lead over the weekend, Sporting Kansas City head into a stretch run that sees them facing Eastern Conference opposition in eight of their last nine matches – while also trying to reach the CONCACAF Champions League knockout stage.

“At this point, we've got to be better at recognizing the moments – in the game, not after the game,” goalkeeper and captain Jimmy Nielsen told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “We have proven so many times that we can do it. We just have to do it consistently, week after week and game after game.”

Sporting, who have lost three of their last four, had the table set for them heading into their away match at San Jose on Sunday. The day before, Shield leaders Real Salt Lake had lost to the LA Galaxy and New York had drawn with Philadelphia to move into a share of the East lead.

A win over the Earthquakes would have retaken the conference lead and put Kansas City a point ahead of Salt Lake in the Shield standings – but they lost 1-0 in an unatrractive, disjointed match.

“It was a weird feeling after the game,” Nielsen said. “It's like we were there, but we were not 100 percent there.”

Sporting manager Peter Vermes, who said after the match that his club had played well enough to earn a point, acknowledged on Wednesday that they didn't try hard enough to take all three.

“I thought our effort was decent,” Vermes said during the club's weekly news conference. “I don't think we went out there to take the game. That's how I would say it. I don't think we were there to take the game. Sometimes you can play a game, but physically that doesn't mean you go there to take the game, to drive the game. I don't think we had that for enough of the game.”

Vermes doesn't expect that to carry over into Friday's away match against Chicago, though.

“If there's one thing that I think we do have, we have a pretty unrelenting desire to put it on teams when we go after them,” he said. “It's just a missed opportunity, if you will, more than anything else.”

And because of the weekend's other results, that missed opportunity didn't cost Sporting too dearly in the East or Shield standings.

“The glass is always half full,” left back Seth Sinovic said on Tuesday. “I think we're a confident team. Despite the result this weekend, we're still at the top of the table with nine games left, so we're in a good spot and we feel like we can take it.”

Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.