KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Sporting Kansas City might have been looking beyond this season when they sold Kei Kamara to Middlesbrough.
Still, they haven't given up on their 2013 aspirations of contending for the Supporters' Shield and ending the year with their first MLS Cup victory since 2000.
“That's still my team goal,” 'keeper and captain Jimmy Nielsen told told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday, two days after Kamara's surprise sale to the English second-division club. “That's still this team's goal, and the organization's goal.”
When the deadline-day transfer was announced, Sporting manager Peter Vermes characterized the deal – and the chunk of allocation money it brought in – as a way to gain salary-cap space and bring in players over the winter transfer period. That led to plenty of social-media speculation that Sporting were downgrading their expectations for this year.
“That's hardly the case, if you ask anybody here,” midfielder Benny Feilhaber said on Wednesday.“We've got a really good team, and a team that can compete to win the MLS Cup, and the Supporters' Shield is within our reach as well.”
Sporting are six points off the Shield lead and in a three-way tie atop the Eastern Conference going into Saturday's home match against Columbus (8:30 pm ET, MLS Live).
And while they wish Kamara well on his return to England and are grateful for the seven league goals he scored. before he left again, the players here also note that they did well while he was overseas earlier this year.
Sporting led the East when Kamara returned in early May from a loan spell to Premiership side Norwich City.
“We've done it without him before, and we can do it without him again,” Nielsen said. “This gives other guys a good opportunity to prove that they should be a part of this group. I've dealt with this for 20 years now, and I'm not going to get emotional over losing a teammate. I'm going to wish him all the best and move on. We've got some business we've got to take care of.”
SKC's ensemble-cast approach makes it easier to absorb the loss of a key player, midfielder Paulo Nagamura said.
“I personally think that Kei is a very talented player, and we'll miss him a lot,” Nagamura said on Thursday, during the club's weekly news conference. “But the thing about Sporting is that we are a team. We are strong as a team. We don't have individuals that shine on their own. The team shines as a group of guys.
“Yeah, we lost a talented player, but we didn't lose the chemistry. We didn't lose the team thing that we have here at Sporting.”