Peter Vermes always says that putting up the league's stingiest defensive numbers starts deep in the other team's end, not with the back line. If Sporting Kansas City's last two matches don't prove their manager's contention, it's hard to say what would.
For the second straight outing, a front-line player's hustle when the opponent had the ball led directly to a goal for Sporting's Dom Dwyer – and this time out, it proved to be a match-winner.
“The bottom line is, it all came through us pressuring high up the field,” Vermes told reporters in a conference call after Saturday's 2-1 victory over Montreal at Stade Saputo completed a three-match season sweep of the struggling Impact. “We pushed them to make a mistake, and the guys were swarming to get in a good position. When you're putting pressure like that on an opposing team, especially at home, I think what you do is you wind up creating opportunities for yourself.”
Dwyer's fourth-minute header off Matt Besler's long throw-in put Sporting up early, but the game appeared headed for a draw after Marco Di Vaio equalized in the 28th and neither team could seem to find the net from the half-hour mark on.
But in the 89th, Impact keeper Troy Perkins and defender Heath Pearce couldn't decide who should play an errant through ball at the edge of the area. Forward C.J. Sapong, a late sub, charged in and knocked the ball off Perkins' feet – and it bounced straight to Dwyer, who drove it home for his 14th goal of the year – six of those against Montreal.
“The guys hung in there all game long,” Vermes said. “We know we made a mistake on the goal we gave up, and they were determined to get one back. Credit to those guys, because they did it late in the game.”
The game-winning sequence was reminiscent of Dwyer's hustle play six days earlier, in a 1-1 home draw with Chicago, when he stripped the ball from defender Patrick Ianni and converted the resulting 1-v-1 against keeper Sean Johnson.
“When everybody is locked in and working as a team, and the way we go and pressure the ball, we can make our own chances and not wait for the other team to make a mistake,” Vermes said. “I think in that situation, as much as you might want to say the other team made a mistake, it really comes because of our pressure. When you have numbers around the ball like we did, that's when we can put ourselves in a good position to stick the ball in the back of the net.”
Sporting's first goal, meanwhile, showcased something Kansas City have missed since Besler went on World Cup duty: his ability to put a throw-in right in front of goal on a low, hard line.
“That's a thing I know teams in this league don't like,” Vermes said, “but it's something that's a part of our game. When you have numbers in the box like we do, and you have guys moving off the ball, it's like a corner kick.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.