KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Peter Vermes is a list of one.
With Saturday's shootout victory over Real Salt Lake, after the two sides played to a 1-1 draw through regulation and extra tie, Sporting Kansas City's manager became the only person ever to win an MLS Cup with the same team as both a player and coach.
But when he was asked what that meant to him in the postgame news conference, Vermes gave a wide-ranging response that dealt less with what the accomplishment means to him than what the championship means to the people around him.
“I’m so glad the game is over with, because the last two weeks haven’t been easy,” said Vermes, who anchored the then-Wizards' defense when they beat the Chicago Fire 1-0 to win the 2000 MLS Cup, played in Washington, DC. “This was so important to me because the nucleus of players that has been here the last three or four years has wanted this. It’s something they’ve worked extremely hard for, and they’ve stayed focused to it. It’s also great for the owners and fans. I’m so glad that everyone can be rewarded for what they have been trying to do.”
The reward was a long time coming, too. Before Saturday, that 2000 MLS Cup victory was Kansas City's last league title in any major sport.
“This is an incredible sports town,” said Vermes, who was inducted into the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame in October. “The fans have had their downs for many years but they keep supporting their teams. From our perspective, we’re happy to reward them for the support they have continued to show through thick and thin. It’s an exciting time for the city and an exciting time for Sporting.”
And to win the title here, when Kansas City hadn't been able to celebrate a championship at home since the Royals won the 1985 World Series?
“This is definitely a big cherry on top at the moment,” he said. “When the rule came out to give MLS Cup to the team with the most points, I think that was one of the best things this league has done. It’s tremendous to be able to bring this home to our city.”
Former Chicago Fire midfielder Peter Nowak is the only other MLSer to win a Cup as a player and later as a coach, but after his 1998 crown with Chicago, he won the second title with D.C. United.