Despite his club's late away defeat and the end of their six-match unbeaten streak, Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes had nothing but praise for the first-time central defense pairing of Ike Opara and Lawrence Olum.
“I thought they did very well, actually,” Vermes told MLSsoccer.com by phone after Saturday night's 1-0 loss to Montreal, on Blake Smith's goal deep in second-half stoppage time. “I don't think they've ever played together before, and I thought that they did a very good job on a player that I have a lot of respect for in regards to his game, and that's [Montreal's Marco] Di Vaio.
"He's a very good player, and they really didn't give him too much. So from that perspective, I thought it was excellent.”
With Matt Besler on CONCACAF Gold Cup duty with the US national team and Aurelien Collin serving his second suspension of the year for caution accumulation, Opara and Olum – the latter of whom has played mostly as a defensive midfielder this season – helped keep Sporting within striking distance of an important away point in a rapidly-tightening Eastern Conference race.
Still, Sporting – who took all three last weekend on Opara's game-winning header in the 97th minute of their 2-1 victory at Real Salt Lake – came away empty-handed this time out as Montreal snapped a five-match winless skid.
“I thought we did enough to get a point on the road,” Vermes said. “I thought we had good play during the course of the game. I thought defensively we were extremely solid and didn't give them too much. I thought we were very disciplined, which we needed to be on the road. Unfortunately, they made that last play.”
Vermes didn't want to comment on the decisive sequence without seeing a replay of the 96th-minute goal, which came after a solid dummy run from Patrice Bernier and a perfect lay-off from Di Vaio to Smith. He had plenty of praise for Impact goalkeeper Troy Perkins, though, for his leaping save of Claudio Bieler's shot in the 52nd minute.
“He made a great save there on that shot by Claudio,” Vermes said. “Awesome save. It didn't change everything, but that was a great opportunity for us. We had a few more here and there. I think both teams were in and around the goal, but not really too dangerous.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.