Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes told the club's fans not to worry about Claudio Bieler's ajdustment to MLS. He also told his players not to worry if they fell behind early on the road in their season opener.
Turns out Vermes was right on both counts.
Bieler, SKC's new designated player, scored in his league debut, icing Sporting's 3-1 comeback victory over Philadelphia on Saturday with a goal in the 83rd minute. And after a rough opening half-hour that nearly saw the Union go up 2-0, Sporting rebounded to grind out all three points behind a goal and two assists from winger Graham Zusi.
WATCH: Bieler kills Union's hopes with 1st goal
“I told the guys before the game, 'We can't panic. We can't leave the game plan all of a sudden because they made something happen, We've just got to stick with it. This is the way we want to play, and we're going to have to work at it,'” Vermes told MLSsoccer.com by phone. “It was good to feel that a little bit, and to stay committed to what we wanted to do.”
Things looked grim for Sporting early on, though, with Philadelphia pressuring them into defensive mistakes and sloppy passing. The Union went up 1-0 on Sebastien Le Toux's goal in the 17th minute and nearly made it 2-0 in the 23rd when Le Toux pushed a golden opportunity just wide.
But after Zusi's putback in the 41st, it was all Sporting (WATCH: Zusi's equalizer).
“To get one back before the half was big for our momentum,” Zusi said. “It got us back to even at half and allowed us to come out and take back the tempo in the second half. I think for us to grind that one out in not the prettiest game shows a lot about our character.
"A game like that can provide quite a bit of confidence for a team on the road," continued Zusi. "Statistics aren't very good for a team that goes down on the road to come back and win, so I think it will bode well for us if we're ever in that situation again.”
OPTA CHALKBOARD: Find out where Zusi did his damage at PPL Park
Uri Rosell, Julio Cesar's replacement at defensive midfielder, came in unmarked to head home Zusi's free kick for the game-winner in the 66th minute. Then Bieler, who joined Sporting after a 20-goal season with Ecuadorian power LDU Quito, gave his new club something they lacked often in 2012 – a decisive, rally-killing finish (WATCH: Bieler seals the SKC win).
“That was definitely something that we were looking for,” Vermes said. “It was well done on his part. I'm glad that he got his goal. That takes the pressure off so people won't be asking that question. Now he can really get down and focus on playing for us.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.