KANSAS CITY, Kan.—After his side scored – and won – for the first time in three tries this season, Peter Vermes could finally crack a joke about his team's slow offensive start.
After Saturday night's 2-1 victory over San Jose, Sporting Kansas City midfielder Benny Feilhaber was asked what he saw that led him to launch a spectacular, dipping shot from distance in the 37th minute for Sporting's first goal of the year.
Vermes didn't miss a beat, interrupting Feilhaber with one word:
If there were any cobwebs in the south goal at Children's Mercy Park, Feilhaber's shot – which caught 'keeper David Bingham wrong-footed at the near post and settled inside the netting at the back post – cleared them away.
“World class. What a hit,” said San Jose assistant coach John Spencer, who co-managed the club on Saturday because coach Dom Kinnear was out sick. “I said that to him after the game. I don't think he'll score too many of them in his career. I think it helps the way the modern soccer ball is designed now. It was almost like a knuckleball. But no. It's a wondergoal and sometimes you get beat with them."
Mere minutes earlier, Feilhaber decided to pass rather than take an open shot from the top of the box; a choice that might have influenced his decision to release from outside the area the next chance he got.
“It just kind of set up nice,” Feilhaber said. “It was obviously a little bit further, but I wanted to just hit a good one. And so, as soon as I hit it, I saw Bingham moving to his near post – I'm not exactly sure why – but I knew that if it just dipped at that point, it was in.
“You've got to shoot to score, right?”
Feilhaber's icebreaker came after his omission from the US national team roster for the next round of 2018 World Cup qualifiers, despite a solid January camp after his first call-up in three years.
“I don't think you ever expect to be with the national team,” Feilhaber said. “I think you hope for it. You've got to earn a call-up. And so, I hope to earn a call-up in the future, but it didn't happen for me this time.”
Sporting opened the season with two scoreless draws, continuing a string of three matches without a goal dating back to the 2016 postseason. This did not change their tactical focus on the defensive side of the ball; they remained confident that the scoring would come around.
It did on Saturday – with some help from Bingham, whose mis-play of Soony Saad's shot in the 89th minute trickled across the line for a decisive own goal that put Sporting up 2-0 before San Jose pulled one back through Florian Jungwirth in the second minute of stoppage time.
“We believe in ourselves,” Vermes said. “We know what we're doing. We are completely resolute to how we want to play and how we're going to build over the course of the season. That's the most important thing. If we believe, it's everything.”
That said, Vermes still wasn't happy that the shutout streak ended late in Saturday's match, or that Tim Melia had to get down and make a big save on Simon Dawkins after conceding to keep the Quakes from grabbing a road point.
“I think it's something that we'll definitely look at and talk about,” Vermes said, “just because I feel that we weren't locked in at that moment. We took our time. We were kind of looking around. We just weren't concentrated.
“This game is funny like that. They almost scored two goals in just a couple of minutes. So, the good thing is that we got out of there with three points, and I think it's a good lesson for us to learn, because concentration is everything."