On the one hand, Sporting Kansas City failed to score for the first time in four preseason matches. On the other, they showed a high level of fitness, controlled the flow of the match and earned their first shutout of the preseason – and did it against a team coming off an MLS Cup final appearance.
So when manager Peter Vermes was asked to assess Friday night’s scoreless draw against the Houston Dynamo in the opening match of the Walt Disney World Pro Soccer Classic, his response was immediate and positive.
“It was a good day for us,” Vermes told MLSsoccer.com by phone after the game in Orlando, Fla.
Vermes, whose team will play three matches over five days in the tournament, liked that he was able to run his starters deep into the game without a significant drop-off in performance.
“We got good minutes,” he said. “We got a bunch of guys 90 minutes. Got a bunch of guys 75 minutes. That was great for us.”
Even without forward Teal Bunbury, who is on national duty with the US U-23 team (and started Friday night’s exhibition against the NASL’s San Antonio Scorpions), Sporting’s 4-3-3 controlled the run of play and generated several scoring chances throughout the match.
Houston’s defense never broke, though – even when the ball started pinballing around the penalty area on a second-half set piece – and Sporting were unable to impose their will on the Dynamo.
“We had a lot of good patience, and our tempo was good on the way we built out of the back,” Vermes said. “We were pretty dangerous on a few set pieces. We’re still needing to get a little better in regards to our chances at goal.
At times, the formation looked almost like a 2-5-3 foosball setup, with outside backs Chance Myers and Seth Sinovic playing more like wingers than defenders.
“Every game is going to present something different,” Vermes said. “What you’re going to see is what each game gives us. This game gave us an opportunity to push forward out of the back.”
On the defensive side, Sporting withstood Houston’s surge over the last 15 minutes and recorded their first clean sheet of the preseason, but not without Jimmy Nielsen having to make several saves, including one on a late header by a wide-open Geoff Cameron.
“We’ll have to look and see who was marking him on that play,” Vermes said. “But overall, I feel very comfortable with where we are on defending set pieces.”
Vermes will give his reserves a chance to go the full 90 on Sunday, when Sporting continue Disney Soccer Classic play against former captain Davy Arnaud and the expansion Montreal Impact.
“We have another whole group to play Sunday’s game,” he said. “They’re going to get their minutes, and we’ll move on from there.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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