KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Sporting Kansas City have already achieved one of their late-season goals. To cross off the next one, though, they just might have to win out.
Sporting, who finished tops in the East at the end of the 2011 regular season, are on 58 points –five clear of New York and Chicago – with three games to go. But the Red Bulls, the Fire and even fourth-place D.C. United could overtake them if SKC falter down the stretch.
But with homefield advantage in their own hands, manager Peter Vermes said he and his club have no intention of letting up.
“We're not going to take our foot off the gas pedal,” Vermes said after Monday's training session. “I think we've got to maintain our form going into the postseason.”
Highlights: Sporting handle Chicago 2-0
Sporting have handled pressure situations well throughout the season, and are currently on a nine-match unbeaten streak – 10 across all competitions, counting their win in the US Open Cup final. Their last two league wins, both convincing 2-0 shutouts, came against East title challengers New York and Chicago.
“Every time we're put in a position where we've had to get certain results, we've done a really good job of getting them,” Vermes said. “I like our style. I like the fact that we're locked in. I like the fact that no matter who we put in there or take out, those guys all have a connection to the game. The performances have been good, but the results are what we've been very good at getting at the right times.”
Not being able to coast into the postseason also should help Sporting carry over its late-season intensity, according to midfielder Graham Zusi.
“If you have any down time, or a time when a game doesn't matter, then you can take your foot off the pedal a little bit,” Zusi said. “But we're not in a position for that to happen, so I think we'll stay sharp.”
Shooting for a record? Not really
Kei Kamara might be able to get off 10 more shots in Sporting's three remaining games. That would give him 140 this year, tying Preki's team record from MLS' inaugural season in 1996.
But 22 more? That's not likely, Kamara said Tuesday. And that means Mamadou Diallo's league record of 152 shots in a season, set in 2000, is probably safe.
“I knew I was top of the league in shots,” said Kamara, whose 48 shots on goal also lead MLS. “But, no. I have a couple more goals in me before the season ends, and that's all I'm going for right now.”
Kamara leads Sporting with a career-best 11 goals this year. He'd like to head into the playoffs with 14.
“We've got three games left,” he said. “If I can get a goal a game, that'd be a great way to finish up the regular season.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.