For a team that didn't get to bed until well after midnight, Sporting Kansas City looked a pretty lively bunch in Wednesday night's 2-0 road win over the New York Red Bulls.
Sporting were supposed to fly out Tuesday afternoon for the critical Eastern Conference clash. Instead, bad weather on the East Coast kept the flight grounded for hours in Kansas City.
“That was the longest delay that I've been a part of since joining the league,” center back Matt Besler told MLSsoccer.com by phone after the match. “I think we waited seven hours in the airport before we took off.”
The plane didn't land in New York until 1:45 am ET. By the time the first head hit a pillow in the team hotel, it was a quarter to three. But when Sporting took the pitch just over 17 hours later, after grabbing an extra hour of sleep on Wednesday morning, they showed no ill effects.
“We weren't too worried about it, to be honest,” Besler said. “I know it sounds bad, getting in so late, but we made our adjustments and we didn't let it affect us at all.”
That's a tribute to his players' professionalism, manager Peter Vermes said.
“The guys had a great attitude about the unfortunate circumstances,” said Vermes, whose East leaders ran their unbeaten streak to seven straight and handed the Red Bulls their first home defeat of the year.
“What are you going to do? It's weather. Everybody understood. The guys were great. They kept their mind focused on the job at hand.”
And for Sporting, that job entailed pressing the Red Bulls from the opening whistle – an approach that yielded C.J. Sapong's 12th-minute goal and Kei Kamara's header off of Graham Zusi's corner kick in the 21st minute.
“We wanted to put them under pressure and drive opportunities for ourselves,” Vermes said. “The guys were locked in. Really locked in. [New York] had no rhythm coming out of the back. They were very predictable, and that changed the game around. The two goals were bound to come, with our intensity around the attacking half.”
Sporting were just as energetic at the other end of the pitch, holding the high-powered Red Bulls scoreless at home for the first time this season. That gave Jimmy Nielsen his 12th clean sheet of 2012, one ahead of Houston's Tally Hall for the league lead.
“It was a great team effort, defensively,” Besler said. “The Red Bulls at home are a very, very good attacking team. So it's a job well done to everybody.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.