KANSAS CITY, Mo. – You can’t blame Peter Vermes for keeping it increasingly short and sweet as the weekend approaches. At this time of the year, any tip of the hand can lead to the untimely end of postseason ambitions.
So it was no surprise when Vermes did his best to sidestep inquiries this afternoon regarding how exactly he planned to approach the task facing Sporting Kansas City in their home-and-home Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Colorado Rapids (7:30 pm ET; FOX Soccer, TSN2; live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
Even though he steadfastly pointed to Sunday evening’s first half as the only thing on his mind, Vermes finally shared at least a little bit of his big-picture strategy approaching the first leg at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
“I think you want to get your points at home, no doubt, because you know that’s where you feel most comfortable,” he said. “Obviously, when you go away from home, you want to try to get a result.”
In other words, Kansas City would be satisfied with a draw in Colorado, a result that would give them the opportunity to book a trip to the conference final with a victory in front of their home fans.
However, that’s not to say Vermes will get too far away from the high-pressure, attacking style that his team has employed to great success this season.
More likely – especially considering the altitude in Colorado and promise of a decisive return leg at Livestrong Sporting Park – Sporting will be pragmatic, choosing the moments to apply pressure wisely and keeping a tight hold on the middle of the park.
“In a perfect world, we would score 10 goals,” Vermes said. “That’s not going to happen. The idea is that we just want to make sure that we come in a halftime even or ahead. We’ll make adjustments from there.”
Fortunately, one player they won’t have to adjust for is the injured Conor Casey, who scored both goals for the Rapids in the team’s two 1-1 draws during the regular season. Instead, Sporting’s prime threats will come in the form of speed as Omar Cummings and Sanna Nyassi attempt to exploit the space behind Kansas City’s back line while Caleb Folan does his best to replace Casey and clean things up in the box.
“When any team does video, they are going to highlight a couple players,” Kei Kamara said. “For them to have Omar Cummings, Nyassi and even a [Kosuke] Kimura that go up and down the sideline, those guys are definitely ones you look at when you talk about speed.”
Kimura and Cummings combined on Colorado’s lone goal in their 1-0 victory against Columbus on Thursday night, keeping the Rapids’ hopes alive for a repeat of last year’s MLS Cup victory.
Many are pointing to Sporting as the favorites, though, despite just two points separating each side’s regular season record and no head-to-head advantage to speak of. Considering the playoff setup, Vermes isn’t convinced either side deserves that title.
From where he sits, both teams have the benefit of playing a game at home. Even though the match in Kansas City happens to be the decisive one, they still must take care of business in both games to have any hope of advancing.
“We sit here today in a good position, but I really don’t think it’s any better than anyone else,” Vermes said. “We have to play a two-game series with the MLS Cup champion from last year. We know that it’s going to be an incredible battle game to game.”