KANSAS CITY, Mo. – If Sporting Kansas City had all the points they deserved, they'd be looking to clinch the Supporters' Shield today with an away win over Philadelphia (3 pm ET, NBCSN).
Instead, they'll need to beat the Union – and then hope the New York Red Bulls draw or lose to Chicago in their regular-season finale – to secure their first Shield since the then-Wizards pulled off a Shield-MLS Cup double in 2000.
But manager Peter Vermes insists he's not dwelling on the blown offside call in late May that disallowed Ike Opara's goal and forced Sporting to settle for a 1-1 draw with D.C. United (above). And if Sporting don't win the Shield because of that call, Vermes said, so be it.
“There's no pressure, which is great,” Vermes told reporters on Thursday. “At the end of the day, we've put ourselves in a good position. And the fact of the matter is, we've reached a couple of goals that we wanted to. We're not happy. We want more. But yeah, we're in a good position to take a strike at (the Shield), and see if we can go get some points. It's a good position to be in.”
Vermes is proud of his club for earning a playoff bid three years running and challenging for their third straight finish atop the Eastern Conference.
“All of these things should never be perceived as easy, or layups, or givens,” he said. “Each time you go around, the team's different. The circumstances are different. So every time you accomplish getting in the playoffs now – there's 19 teams. It is not easy. It's a whole different task from when there were 10 teams in the league, and eight made it.”
He's proud of their unbeaten record in CONCACAF Champions League qualifying, earning them a berth in next year's quarterfinals against Mexican side Cruz Azul, while also contending in the MLS standings.
“To do what we have over three years, being as consistent as we have, is a credit to the players and the way they come to do their job every day,” said Vermes, whose club clinched their spot in the CCL's knockout stage with Wednesday's scoreless home draw against Honduras' CD Olimpia. “Qualifying for the knockout stage of the Champions League is a huge, huge accomplishment, as I told the guys.”
And he's proud of doing that in a season filled with injuries and international absences.
“There were times this year,” he said, “when we had seven guys gone on international duty.”
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Still, Vermes acknowledged that if his club win today and still finish second in the Shield standings, the specter of assistant referee Matt Nelson's raised flag – Nelson acknowledged he missed the play, and replays showed several defenders keeping Opara onside – will stand as a reminder of what might have been.
“I'm not going to say that hasn't crossed my mind,” Vermes said. “But it is what it is. You've got to just move on and do what you've got in front of you. One thing about the group is that they've been pretty focused on the goals they have and staying consistent.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.