KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Sporting Kansas City may have secured the right to play in a winner-take-all second leg at home following their 0-0 draw with the Portland Timbers in Leg 1 of the Western Conference Championship at Providence Park on Sunday.
However, just because SKC will be at Children's Mercy Park doesn't mean anything about Thursday's return fixture (9:30 pm ET | ESPN, TSN2, TVAS2, ESPN Deportes) will be an easy job, says manager Peter Vermes.
“Being in that position, for both teams, is not an easy one,” Vermes said. “Because it’s not easy to always say, ‘you’re at home, you’re gonna drive the game, you’re gonna be the team that has more possession,’ all those other things. At the same time they’re coming to play away from home, but they have an advantage as well. That advantage is that it’s a final. There is no more games after this.”
What Vermes means is that the scenarios are very straightforward for the second leg for both clubs, which leaves Portland with less options for how to approach the trip. For either side, win the match, and move on to the final. And for Portland, a draw of 1-1 or higher at full-time sees the Timbers move on via the away goals rule.
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Sporting aren’t really concerned by the possibility of away goals coming into play. It’s win and you’re in.
“The situation for us is simple, win the game,” defender Matt Besler said Tuesday. “If we win the game we advance to MLS Cup. That’s our goal, that’s what we’re trying to do. If that means winning 1-0, or 4-3, I don’t know what the game is going to look like. We have to be ready for anything, but we’re going to have to do what it takes to win the game.”
Sporting KC were involved in a wild affair in their most recent second leg, defeating Real Salt Lake on the night 4-2 to win their conference semifinal 5-3 on aggregate. After being up 2-0 at halftime, Sporting KC found RSL clawing back to within a goal of a dramatic, high-scoring draw that would've sent the Claret and Cobalt through to the Conference Championship instead.
“When you go through a game like that,” he said, “with the emotional rollercoaster that it was, you then also gain a level of confidence to know that in games like that, you can go through them, and come out on the right side of the ledger. I think that’s an important aspect that we needed to go through, to get to this point.
“Now we’re in the same situation again Thursday night. I don’t know what the result will be, but I’m very confident that our guys will put everything out there.”