There was no talk of momentum going into the US Open Cup final, no reflection about being back in a tie for the Eastern Conference lead after snapping a three-match winless streak, no speculation about the potential loss of yet another starter from an already-thin lineup.
Sporting Kansas City picked up three points on the road, and that was enough for manager Peter Vermes.
“This is a testament to the guys being able to grind games out, which they did,” Vermes told MLSsoccer.com by phone after Saturday night’s 1-0 victory over the New England Revolution. “So this was good. Good win for us.”
WATCH: Full Match Highlights
With 33 total fouls (21 charged to Sporting) and two yellow cards for each side, no one would call Saturday night’s match pretty. Still, Kansas City — who host three-time defending USOC champion Seattle in Wednesday’s final — got three gorgeous touches from forward Teal Bunbury (above, right) in the sequence that ended with his game-winning goal in the 20th minute.
The first came when he beat Stephen McCarthy to Clyde Simms’ headed pass, chipping the ball over the Revs defender into one-on-one space. The second touch settled the ball without breaking Bunbury’s stride, and the third was a clinical finish for Bunbury’s fourth goal of the season.
“That was very opportunistic on his side,” said Vermes, whose team now shares the East lead with surging Houston. “He was very aggressive tonight. I think his speed at getting behind [McCarthy] was good, and his second touch was fantastic, and then there was his patented finish from that side of the field.”
After that, it remained for Sporting to hold on through the physical, sometimes chippy contest and finish the regular-season series against the Revs with a 2-0-1 record. The series saw three shutouts by Jimmy Nielsen, who recorded his 10th clean sheet of the year on Saturday night.
“At the end of the day, we got the three points, and that’s what we needed,” Vermes said. “Now we’ve got to get rested and recovered and get ready for that next match.”
Sporting, who were already missing five key players due to injury or international absence, saw winger Bobby Convey — who missed seven league matches earlier this year with a series of calf strains — come out limping in the seventh minute. He was replaced by Soony Saad in the earliest substitution in club history.
“He just tweaked his hamstring a little bit,” Vermes said. “We won’t know anything until tomorrow.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.