Sporting KC's Peter Vermes hails team in gritty win over Portland: "That's the standard of who we are"

Now that's the effort Peter Vermes expects – and the payback and payoff Sporting Kansas City wanted.

Just three days after criticizing his club's defensive play in a 3-1 loss to Portland, eliminating Kansas City from US Open Cup contention, Vermes had nothing but praise for Sporting after Friday night's 1-0 away victory over the Timbers in their return to MLS action after the World Cup break.

“Not the defense, but the whole entire team,” the manager told reporters in a conference call. “That's the standard of who we are, when it comes to battling and fighting and not giving anything away. We were superb.”

The Timbers had 67 percent of the possession and outshot Sporting 11-9, but Kansas City negated that with 43 clearances and a 22-12 advantage in tackles won. Sporting also weren't afraid to get physical, with 23 fouls to Portland's 10.

And because of that, Lawrence Olum's 24th-minute goal, after a long throw-in from Seth Sinovic and an assist from Kevin Ellis, stood as the match-winner.

“From a tactical perspective, we were extremely efficient on the field,” Vermes said. “We were picking and choosing our moments of when to counter. We provided an environment where they had no solutions.”

Ellis, who was at his natural fullback spot on Tuesday night, was moved back into central defense on Friday as right back Igor Juliao returned from a quad strain. Ellis teamed with Aurelien Collin to frustrate the Timbers in the box, helping Eric Kronberg earn his league-leading sixth clean sheet of the season.

“Not only was he in a good position all the time, but I thought he was actually good on the ball – made the right decisions,” Vermes said. “There were times it was difficult, because of the numbers they had in the middle of the park, to play it out of the back – especially up the middle. So he made some good choices on the balls he played out as well.”

Olum came off limping in the 56th minute, but Vermes said he did not expect the defensive midfielder to miss any action.

“It's just a little tweak,” Vermes said. “I don't think it's anything major, but he did the right thing in not overextending himself and hurting himself for a long period.”

Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.