Sporting Kansas City dropped three points on their first road trip in almost two months, but not even a hint of worry crept into head coach Peter Vermes’s voice following his team’s 1-0 defeat to Real Salt Lake.
Apart from a momentary lapse in concentration that freed Nat Borchers for a simple header and the game’s only goal, Vermes had a hard time finding much of anything to complain about regarding his team’s performance on Saturday night.
“We dominated the game,” Vermes said. “Other than the end when we were throwing everything forward, we shut down their attack. They did not break us down in the first half at all. Outside of the set piece, I thought we played a fantastic game.”
But fantastic or not, Sporting couldn’t manage the road result they craved against RSL, missing out on a chance to move into first place in the Eastern Conference in the process.
Still, its safe to say there won’t be any signs of panic in Kansas City this week.
Sporting are 9-3-9 since late May with all three of their losses coming in narrow fashion against the Western Conference elite. And they're only growing in confidence as the season heads into its final, critical weeks.
The visitors were certainly the more dangerous of the two sides on Saturday night, but RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando was equal to goal-bound attempts by Aurélien Collin and Júlio César, and snuffed out a number of other dangerous situations.
The most encouraging aspect of the performance, though, was the stifling defensive pressure Sporting applied against a potent RSL team that now has the third-best record in MLS.
“Especially in the first half, they couldn’t string passes together,” Vermes said. “Our guys were closing down the lanes and spaces. When we won it, we moved the ball from side to side, switching the point of attack and getting after them.”
All in all, Vermes called it one of Sporting’s best performances this season from a tactical standpoint.
And negative result aside, that can only be encouraging as Kansas City looks to separate themselves from Columbus, Philadelphia, Houston, D.C. United and New York and lock down a playoff spot in what has become a logjam at the top of the conference table.
“We’ve played very well for a long time now,” Vermes said. “I thought we played well again tonight. We’re not going to change a bunch of things. We’re a good team, and we have the ability to play with anyone in this league. We need to do that in these last five games of the season.”