KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Sporting Kansas City completed their worst-to-first narrative – they’re even in the East with Columbus for at least 24 hours – with a 1-1 draw against the Philadelphia Union Friday night at Livestrong Sporting Park.
But there was no music blaring in the subdued home locker room afterward, and no talk of championships or celebration of any sort from the players or manager Peter Vermes.
Kansas City may be joint leaders in the East for now, but they understand there is plenty of work left to do with four critical games left on the schedule. Simply put, collecting one point against the Union was good enough, but three would have been a whole lot better.
“It’s a game where we wanted all three points,” Kei Kamara said. “We were at home. It’s like the playoffs are in our hands. At the same time, we can’t be too down. We still got a point.”
That point moved Kansas City (10-9-11) into a tie for first in the Eastern Conference with the Columbus Crew, who take on the league-leading LA Galaxy at home on Saturday night with a chance to regain their hold on first place.
Sporting now have four games remaining to lock down a playoff spot in what has become a jam-packed race for poll position in the East. And while it remains a tenuous situation all things considered, Vermes said he is comfortable with where his team has landed after a rough start.
“We’re in a very good place,” he said. “We were in a much different place not too long ago. For us to be alive and where we are, being in this thing, is good.”
For 60 minutes, it looked like Kansas City would be more than just alive and kicking.
Sporting dominated possession from start to finish, ending up with 58 percent of the ball, but couldn’t hold onto the lead after Omar Bravo gave the home team a 1-0 advantage in the 56th minute.
Just seven minutes later, Michael Farfan beat Seth Sinovic to the touchline to keep the ball in play and fed Sébastien Le Toux for a goal that took two points from Kansas City and gave Philadelphia the result they were looking for in a difficult environment.
“We could have done better by just kicking the ball out of bounds at the point and fighting on the corner kick,” Vermes said. “Credit to [Philly], they came to defend and try to get a point. That was their goal.”
And just like Kansas City managed to do back on June 22 in Philadelphia, the Union held on for what could end up being a decisive result in the race to qualify for the playoffs.
Instead of trailing Sporting by four points – which would have rendered Philadelphia’s game in hand practically moot – the gap remained the same, setting up another pressure-filled home match at Livestrong Sporting Park when Columbus visit on Sept. 28.
“You can call this the playoffs [already],” goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen said. “We’ve got a big game coming up again on Wednesday. We’ve got to get this game out of our system and look forward to the Columbus game.”