Through much of Sporting Kansas City's five-match winless streak, manager Peter Vermes praised his club's effort and said they deserved better results.
This time, facing perhaps the grimmest circumstances this season, they got one – and just in time to take some momentum into the World Cup break and their first US Open Cup match.
“This group of guys, they really deserved three points,” Vermes told reporters in a conference call after Friday night's 2-0 away victory over the Houston Dynamo. “They really did. They've deserved three points here in the last so many games that we've played. They've played well. I'm hoping this is a good confidence-builder for them, because they deserve it. Their commitment, the way they played, was excellent.”
They had to be, because the circumstances weren't. Sporting found themselves reduced to 10 men by Toni Dovale's early straight red card, with three starters injured and all of their subs used up by halftime.
Dovale was sent off in the 21st minute, after apparently elbowing Dynamo midfielder Alex Lopez away from the play before a Sporting restart.
“I have not seen it,” Vermes said. “From what I've heard, everybody has said that it's a nothing play. I don't know. I don't want to comment based on the fact that I really haven't seen it.”
And still, Kansas City led 1-0 at the break on Soony Saad's first goal of the year, a 45th-minute strike off an assist from Benny Feilhaber – who had to come off at the half with a separated shoulder, after a challenge on the scoring play by Houston's Eric Brunner.
Igor Juliao also came off at the half, a precautionary move to avoid aggravating a strained quad – and those exits came after midfielder Paulo Nagamura had to leave with a gashed head and a concussion just seven minutes in, after knocking heads with A.J. Cochran as both went for a ball in the air.
And with muggy conditions at BBVA Compass Stadium, that meant Sporting had to fight not only Houston's man advantage, but also the knowledge that no matter how badly anyone wore down or cramped up, there would be no more help from the bench.
Instead of bunkering, though, they continued to press and were rewarded in the 70th minute with Dom Dwyer's spot kick for his 11th goal of the year, moving him back into a share of the league scoring lead with New York's Bradley Wright-Phillips.
“I think it shows incredible determination by the guys to get three points, no matter what the circumstances,” Vermes said. “If you just look at the way they were able to manage the game, the situation that they were in, how hard they worked with the heat and everything else that you have to take into consideration – the heat was incredible. So it was pretty simple. They played well, They got three points. This was a pretty important game for this group of guys.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.