KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Peter Vermes’ first words following Sporting Kansas City’s 2-0 defeat in Tuesday’s US Open Cup quarterfinal were to congratulate the Richmond Kickers.
Once he got past that courtesy, however, Vermes spent the next couple minutes ripping his team for a collapse that cost Kansas City both a spot in the Open Cup semifinals and their unblemished home record on a wind-swept and rain-soaked night at Livestrong Sporting Park.
The match, then knotted at 0-0, was postponed at the 65-minute mark for an hour and 21 minutes when storm clouds surrounded the stadium, resulting in a steady downpour and lightning on all sides. When play resumed, Richmond scored within a minute of the restart and eventually tacked on a penalty kick, leaving Vermes fuming at the turn of events and his players’ lack of desire.
“Obviously, I’m ticked,” he said. “I’m ticked because you don’t give stuff like that away. We probably had it wrapped up to have the semifinal here, and to give that away — absolute embarrassment.”
Even more frustrating for Sporting is the manner in which they drove the game until the delay despite the match remaining scoreless. Kansas City had 11 shots to Richmond’s two in the first half and ended with 22 to the visitor’s seven overall, but could only put five of those on frame.
And despite playing in their own half most of the match, Richmond — the last non-MLS side left in the competition — came out of the locker rooms following the delay more focused and energized than the home side. They snatched a quick goal from a hopeful ball forward and then took advantage of Kansas City’s lackadaisical play to move one step closer to the final.
“The bottom line is you have to come out, you’ve got to be ready and you’ve got to know the game is on,” Vermes said about Kansas City’s performance following the delay. “It’s time to play. That’s it. There are no magical formulas. There is no nothing. You come out, and you play.”
Unfortunately for the Sporting fans that weathered the pounding storm and waited out the delay, the Kickers scuttled their hopes for a winner just 57 seconds after play restarted.
A hopeful ball was knocked over the top, settled and played across the box for a waiting Shaka Bangura. And even though goalkeeper Eric Kronberg managed to get his body in front of the shot, the ball somehow ended up over the line, leaving Kansas City shell-shocked and unable to pick up the pieces.
“A couple things had to go right for them, and they did,” Kronberg said. “I came out big. I thought I timed it well. He hit it right off my chest. Next thing I know, I turn around and the ball is in the goal.”
But more so than the goals themselves, Vermes was furious about the effort and sense of pride his team put into a game that could have paved their way forward to bigger and better things.
Instead of looking forward to a spot in the semifinals and a special occasion at home, Sporting will now have to deal with a manager with little pity for their plight and plenty of time on the training pitch to make his point stick.
“Coming out in the second half and then giving that away — some guys were just walking around the field,” Vermes said. “[It was] unacceptable and embarrassing. Everybody is going to know about it come the next couple days, that’s for darn sure.”