KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Kansas City hasn't won a major league title in any sport since Peter Vermes helped the then-Wizards win the 2000 MLS Cup as a player.
Now, 13 years later, he has a chance to help break that drought as Sporting Kansas City's manager – and to help the city celebrate its first championship won at home since the Kansas City Royals took the 1985 World Series.
And while doing that would be a source of personal and professional pride, Vermes also wants to reward his adopted hometown for those years of patience and support.
“I don't really think about the length of time,” he said on Wednesday, during the club's weekly news conference. “I just know the time that I'm here, that's been a real goal of ours. Obviously, I've had a different pursuit of this since I became the coach.
“It's something I think is important to reward our fans, the city,” Vermes added. “Not to take away, obviously, from the team for all their hard work, but it's really important that the owners get rewarded with this opportunity as well. You just have to look at the commitment that they've made to this club, to this city, to the community at large and then to the game of soccer.”
Vermes was the MLS Defender of the Year in 2000, when the Wizards capped their season with a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Fire at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. He managed Sporting to the 2012 U.S. Open Cup final in 2012, but he never got another crack at an MLS Cup as a player before retiring in 2002.
“Obviously, it's totally different than 2000, in every way, shape or form,” he said. “Our sport has grown nationally. We have nine more teams at the moment, two more coming in, so there's a different buzz from that perspective. Then you talk about here – this truly is Soccer City USA.”
- The latest SKC news at SportingKC.com
That 2000 final wasn't his first shot at the league's postseason title, though – and the one that got away still sticks with him. That came in the 1997 final when his Colorado Rapids team lost 2-1 to D.C. United.
“I still think back to that championship even today at times,” Vermes said of the game, also played at RFK. “It'll come into my head, just because I think we missed one there. And so I think those opportunities are things you have to take advantage of, and that's what I try to explain to the guys. You just never know when you're going to get there again. So when you're there, make sure you do everything you can to not let that opportunity slip by you.”
And if Sporting convert that opportunity on Dec. 7 against Real Salt Lake (4 pm ET; ESPN)?
“It would be tremendous, for sure,” he said. “It would be great. It would be a very proud moment.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.