KANSAS CITY, Kan. – For Sporting Kansas City, picking up a point with yet another makeshift lineup was a source of frustration rather than pride – especially with the problems they've had replicating their road success at Sporting Park.
“I think everybody expects to win at this club,” said forward Jacob Peterson, who was pressed into service at left back because of Seth Sinovic's groin strain. “That's the mentality that Peter (Vermes, Sporting's manager) and the coaching staff have built here. I think everybody on the field has played enough and has proven that they can perform well in this league, so I don't think that's an excuse at all.”
Sporting have the league's best road record at 7-4-0, including an active string of five straight away wins. But after Friday night's 1-1 draw against the Philadelphia Union, they're 4-1-6 at home despite a plus-8 goal differential (16 for, eight against).
“It stinks,” said winger Graham Zusi, who put Sporting up 1-0 in the 54th minute but was denied a second score by the right goalpost two minutes after that. “Your home is a place you protect, and it's frustrating to drop any points when you're here – especially with the support we get. But I guess we've got to keep pushing and go for the points every time. That's something that doesn't change.”
Sporting's players also were frustrated that the Union were able to execute the same collapse-and-counter strategy that they used to beat Kansas City 2-1 in May.
“We know how they're going to play,” Zusi said. “They're going to come in, bunker in and play for the counter. That's what they did. For one reason or another, we find ourselves in bad situations because we lose the ball in tough spots, and it feeds right into their game of counterattacking. We can only blame ourselves for that.”
Even extending their unbeaten streak to eight straight going into the MLS All-Star Game break wasn't enough for the Eastern Conference leaders to consider Friday night's glass half-full.
“We want to win,” Vermes said in his postmatch news conference. I don't know what else to say. We want to win, and we want to get the points. That's why you see us go play the way we do on the road as well. We want to win, and we're disappointed. We're disappointed not coming out of that game with three points.”
The Union deserve some credit for denying them all three, he said.
“I thought they were well-organized and they were pretty darned disciplined,” he said. “But at the same time, we've got to finish some of the chances we had. But that's the game sometimes. We're still in a good place, and we've just got to keep working.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.