KANSAS CITY, Kan. – On Tuesday, Peter Vermes promised that Sporting Kansas City would take matters into their own hands in the home leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Sporting's hard-nosed, intense manager wouldn't elaborate on what he meant by that. Watch and see, he said.
On Wednesday night, his club made good on the promise – not with rough play, but with a dominating, dynamic performance in a 3-1 extratime victory over New England and a 4-3 win on aggregate in the two-match series.
And that, Vermes said, is what he meant all along.
“If you watch tonight's game, you can't leave here and say you weren't entertained,” he said in the postmatch news conference. “Our players managed the game extremely well in all the pieces of the game, and on top of that they also entertained.”
The sellout crowd at Sporting Park certainly got their money's worth, from Sporting's early pressing to Claudio Bieler's series-winner in the 23rd minute of extratime, and they returned that with loud, passionate support.
“It was an unbelievable environment,” Vermes said. “I've always said that the interesting thing for me here at Sporting Park is that there's a connection between the fans and the players, and the players and the fans. And that is the thing that needs to be replicated all over this league as the league continues to grow.
"We want to play a high-tempo, entertaining style of game, and when we're given the chance to do that, it's entertaining it not only for the fans watching it live but also for the fans watching on TV.”
Vermes felt his club didn't get that chance in their 2-1 away-leg loss this past Saturday, so they went out and took it on Wednesday.
“The difference is that we went out and said, 'This is what we're going to do, no matter what the other team does, we're going to play this way, and we're going to take certain situations into our own hands, and we're going to make sure that we force things to happen the way that we want to, and that's a credit to the players,” he explained.
Sporting outshot the visitors 32-5, had 64.3 percent of the possession, won 98 duels to New England's 69 – and committed 17 fouls to 27 for the Revolution.
“There's not a guy on our team that ever cheap-shots anyone,” Vermes said. “If they did, I'm the first guy to step in and take care of that, because that's not the way we want to play. We play hard, but we play fair, and we want to play to make sure that we're always entertaining as well.
"We want results – don't get me wrong, results are first and foremost – but we want to do that in conjunction with entertaining.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.