Sporting Kansas City "give everything" in season-saving win


Sporting Kansas City's 2-1 win over Houston Dynamo FC Saturday night was crucial. Not only did it keep them alive in the hunt for the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs, it was also a prime example of what longtime manager and sporting director Peter Vermes used to describe as "Sporting DNA."

Forced to play down a man the majority of the game after opening goalscorer Johnny Russell's first-half sending-off, SKC hung on, managed to score a second goal and ultimately saw the match out for a gutsy win.

"Look, I can tell you two things," Vermes said he told his team at halftime. "One is, you’re not gonna die. You have to give everything you have physically and you also have to give everything from a mental perspective... You’re not gonna die by the end of the game, just run, run, run, run, run. For the most part, everybody did that exceptionally well."

Sporting bounced back after Russell's 39th-minute dismissal, with Willy Agada scoring what would prove to be the winner just seven minutes later. The goal was Agada's first in league play since March, and it came in his first start since April.

And despite Houston's numerical advantage, SKC created their share of chances on the night, something Vermes emphasized is a reflection of their identity.

"It’s because we have a way of playing," he said. "We want to play. We build out of the back. We try to create high-scoring or high-quality chances all the time through the way that we play, and it doesn’t change, even when we’re in that situation."

No one embodies the 'Sporting DNA' more than Vermes himself, particularly when it comes to passion for the game. The longest-tenured head coach in MLS had plenty to say about the yellow card he received on the touchline for his animated behavior.

"I was told about 10 minutes into the game that I have too much emotion in the game," he said incredulously. "Now, I’ve never been told that by anybody in my life and I’m here to tell you that I will continue with the kind of emotion that I have. This is what I do. I have passion for what I do and I will not change that, and to be told that is absolutely ridiculous."

Sporting have their work cut out for them to make it to the postseason, but they continue to grind out results and stay alive, ending the evening one point below the Western Conference playoff line. Next up is a pivotal derby match against their new but already fierce rivals, St. Louis CITY SC. After falling to the expansion side in the first battle to decide the "soccer capital of America" back in May, SKC exacted revenge with a win in a rematch earlier in September.

Rivalries aside, Vermes is looking to build on Saturday's result and not get distracted by the end goal of the playoffs.

"It will help maintain the momentum for future games," Vermes said of the win. "We just need to get ourselves in training and build for the next match. And then, you know, we'll get on with the next one. I don't want to talk after that."