KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Ever since the 1990 World Cup, Peter Vermes has heard the same question over and over.
What if his shot – the second-chance ball that went through Italian goalkeeper Walter Zenga's legs and was rolling across the goal line before finally being cleared away – had gone in?
Goal or not, spending the last 13 years in Kansas City – his adopted hometown where he has won championships as both player and manager – is just fine by him.
“Everyone always says to me, 'Man, if you had scored that goal, where would you be today?' I think that's the best thing that ever happened to me,” Vermes said Friday outside Sporting Park, during his induction to the National Soccer Hall of Fame. “I'm right where I want to be.”
And being inducted in Kansas City, where he helped lead the then-Wizards to the Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup in 2000 and managed Sporting Kansas City to the US Open Cup title in 2012, made entering the Hall all the sweeter for Vermes.
“That's a very special aspect of this day,” said Vermes, who was inducted along with former US teammate Joe-Max Moore before Friday's World Cup qualifier against Jamaica. “I honestly didn't think it was going to be as hard as it was for me, but when you look out and see so many faces that you know – this is my hometown, it really is.”
Vermes began his 15-year professional career in Europe, returning home in 1996 to help found MLS. He closed out his career with Kansas City in 2002. He also scored 11 goals in 66 caps for the US national team, represented his country at the 1988 Olympics and was the captain of that 1990 squad that returned to the World Cup after a 40-year absence.
"I've had a very fortunate and privileged career as a player," Vermes said. "Being a professional soccer player is the best job in the world, the best profession you can be in. But I am so fortunate that I have that one place right next to it now. I'm not playing anymore but I'm coaching. It's a great place to be.”
On Friday, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said Vermes was being honored as much for his administrative work as for his accomplishments as a player, manager and technical director. He spent 20 years on U.S. Soccer's Board of Directors and also served as a vice president of the organization, representing the Athlete Council.
“I can't think of anyone – and that's a strong statement – I can't think of anyone in this sport, at least as long as I've been involved over the last 30 years, that has been this accomplished in three different areas of the sport,” said Gulati, a longtime friend who introduced Vermes at Friday's induction ceremony.
Vermes does have one regret, though.
“I would love to have the opportunity in front of the fans that come to this stadium every weekend,” he said. “I would give anything to play just one game in that environment.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.