KANSAS CITY, Kan. – The final scoreline aside, Sporting Kansas City got most of what they wanted out of this one.
Their regular XI played Premier League champions Manchester City close throughout the first half on Wednesday – and despite the 4-1 loss after the visitors scored twice in the second half against a mix of backups and new arrivals, Sporting were glad for the chance to compete against a top-flight side going into Saturday's league match in Toronto.
“For 45 minutes, we wanted to go out and play our style,” defender and captain Matt Besler told reporters. “We wanted to use it as a training exercise against a very good team, against an exciting team that a lot of us watch on Saturday mornings – but beyond that, it's not much more than that. We're moving on to Saturday.”
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Besler's assessment of those 45 minutes: “We had some pretty good buildups, created some good chances. We also gave away a few chances. Again, I doubt we'll look too much into it. Tomorrow, we'll have practice and leave for Toronto – which is a huge, huge match, probably our biggest of the season so far.”
Manager Peter Vermes agreed and added a third goal: Not getting anyone – or, rather, anyone else – hurt.
“It's a great team for us to play, for a number of reasons,” said Vermes, whose club takes a six-match league unbeaten streak into Saturday's match. “Obviously, for us, our emphasis is the league. We're playing a big game on Saturday, and that's where our concentration was and is. Our biggest thing is that we got out of here unscathed, because as you know we've had quite a few injuries over the course of this season.”
Sporting fans also got their first look at three new arrivals in the home side: midfielders Jorge Claros, Martin Steuble and Michael Kafari, all acquired this summer. Kafari struggled to keep up and conceded a penalty kick, and Steuble didn't do much in the match after only arriving in Kansas City on Wednesday morning – but Claros, a veteran of Honduras' 2014 World Cup team, impressed Vermes with his gritty defensive work.
“I thought Claros was great to see,” Vermes said, “because he brought a dimension that we thought he would. He was very good in the game, and he's going to fit into our team very, very well.”
Despite the positives, though, Sporting still would have liked to come away with a better result.
“We're competitors,” goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum told MLSsoccer.com. “We want to win. The 45 minutes felt like a loss, essentially, because it was. But at the same time, we have a game that matters on Saturday.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.