Don’t count Sporting Kansas City out just yet.
It was a massive “six-point” result considering the club is looking to ascend the Western Conference table and push towards an Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs return. Currently, SKC are 11th in the West and have eight games to make up a three-point gap.
“I’m very happy that we came out flying,” said forward Dániel Sallói, who opened the scoring three minutes in. “I think that was very important … I think we controlled the game the whole way. I’m just happy. We have to look at it one game at a time and climb back into the playoffs. This is what we’re going to do, and next week is going to be very, very important.”
Added manager and sporting director Peter Vermes: “Look, San Jose is a good team. They’ve done a good job, especially on the road they’ve played really well. It wasn’t an easy game. There was a period in the first half where they started to kind of get back into the game, but what we didn’t do was we didn’t lose ourselves in those moments, and I thought we defended really well. Then we were getting out on the counter and we were very dangerous.”
Sporting were also the benefactors of a few brilliant individual moments at home.
First, captain Johnny Russell (42') doubled their lead just before halftime via a nifty slalom run and tidy finish. And then, midway through the second half, Erik Thommy (69') hit a screamer from outside the box which set Children’s Mercy Park alight and all but put the game to bed. Not to be outdone, veteran goalkeeper Tim Melia – returning from a months-long injury absence – preserved his clean sheet by turning away Carlos Gruezo's penalty in second-half stoppage time.
Those types of plays and the overall team performance had Sallói feeling confident about Sporting's outlook for the remainder of the season.
“We’re pushing for every weekend to [get] the same performance that we gave today because we know that we could do this,” Sallói said. “Now that we’ve had this little break, we only have to focus on the next game and it’s looking good right now, so I think we just want to roll into next weekend with the same mentality.”
If Sporting KC pull a comeback off and squeeze into the playoffs, they’ll have done so while overcoming a slow start to the 2023 season, one which saw the club go winless in their first 10 games to begin the year. Ever since, Sporting have won seven of their last 16 games as they inch closer to the West's ninth-and-final spot.
They’ll need to add more wins down the stretch to complete this miraculous turnaround, but Saturday's result was a massive step in the right direction. The question, however, still remains: Is it a sign of things to come? Or is it too little, too late for Vermes and Co.?