KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Fortunately for Sporting Kansas City, they haven’t required the services of Designated Player Omar Bravo so far this postseason.
For the second consecutive game, Bravo didn’t play a single minute in a 2-0 Kansas City victory against Colorado in the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Wednesday after suffering a groin strain prior to the series’ first leg.
The Mexican didn’t even make the 18-man roster as manager Peter Vermes took a cautious approach with his team holding a 2-0 aggregate lead and replacements waiting in the wings.
“Even though [Omar] can run, the problem is that whenever he strikes a ball he can feel it a little bit,” Vermes said. “As we talked between the medical staff and the coaching staff, we decided that it just does not make sense, especially today as rainy as it was and wet. It would be easy for a guy like that to slip and extend it a little more.”
The hope now is that Sporting’s training staff can get Bravo healthy enough to play in time for this weekend’s Eastern Conference Championship at Livestrong Sporting Park.
Kansas City will play either Philadelphia or Houston on Sunday for the right to go to MLS Cup in Los Angeles on Nov. 20. That task would certainly be easier with Bravo – who scored nine goals during the regular season – than without.
But even though Bravo has made progress this week, Vermes said he couldn’t say for sure whether his DP would be available, only that he hoped more recovery time would pay dividends.
“I think he’ll be ready for Sunday,” Vermes said. “I can’t guarantee it, but he has a couple more days now to keep getting treatments and get back.”
Zusi’s precision the difference
On a rain-soaked night in Kansas City that made precision build-up play difficult, it came as no surprise that set pieces marked the difference between the teams.
Quarterbacking Sporting’s success from dead-ball situations was midfielder Graham Zusi, who recorded his eighth and ninth assists of the year by finding Aurélien Collin and C.J. Sapong for two headers in the penalty area.
Collin opened the scoring in the first half and came close to scoring on two other occasions in the second 45 minutes from Zusi’s service, hitting the joint between the post and crossbar on one effort, before Sapong put away a towering header with 15 minutes remaining.
“Zusi has been laying dimes all season,” Sapong said. “Finally, I was able to get up and go get it. It’s our job as forwards to put the ball in the back of the net.”
Smith recants statements on physical play
Much was made of some disparaging comments made by Colorado manager Gary Smith following the series’ first leg on Sunday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
Smith labeled Sporting’s play reckless and compared their approach that that of a college team immediately following that match, but he backed off those statements following Wednesday night’s defeat.
“I thought the game across the two legs has been played in a really competitive fashion, and some of my comments may have suggested the Kansas City guys were a little overzealous in the first leg,” Smith said. “But listen, I looked at the challenges again. I have no issues whatsoever. I thought the game was played in a very decent fashion, a competitive fashion, and the sort of passion you might expect in a playoff game.”