KANSAS CITY, Mo. – With their playoff berth secured and two matches left in the regular season, Sporting Kansas City now have a shorter-term goal firmly in sight.
“It's the Supporters' Shield,” center back Matt Besler told MLSsoccer.com on Monday. “We have a chance at it, and so we're trying to win the last two games. That's going to give us the best shot at winning. How we do that is by taking care of business against D.C. at home [on Friday]. We've got to win that game, and then we'll see what happens.”
Sporting, who clinched a playoff spot when Philadelphia and D.C. drew 1-1 on Saturday, will need some help to earn their first shield since 2000. They're on 52 points, one point back of co-leaders Portland and New York – and there are eight clubs on 48 or more points after last weekend.
“I haven't seen anything like this in my six years in the league,” right back Chance Myers said. “You look at the whole table, and it's crazy.”
Sporting have won four of their last six league matches, with only one loss over that span, and goalkeeper and captain Jimmy Nielsen said that bodes well for their chances of taking the Shield and of finishing atop the East standings for the third year in a row.
“You've got to show form at the right time,” Nielsen said. “All of that – physical, mental, tactical – I think we're right where we should be.”
And while Sporting KC's short-term goals are to win the Shield and to clinch a spot in next year's CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals – which they can do on Oct. 23 against Honduras' CD Olimpia – they're also working to get into postseason form before the playoffs start.
“It's a 'whatever it takes' kind of attitude we have here,” Myers said. “You see teams in the past kind of stumble into the playoffs, barely, and then they start playing well. So why not start playing playoff soccer, the way you need to grind out games?”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.