You can call it a stoppage-time collapse, chalk it up to Tim Melia’s red card or blame simple defensive errors as four months between games confronted the Orlando heat.
Whatever your reason, Sporting Kansas City were left ruing missed chances after last Sunday’s 2-1 defeat against Minnesota United, when two stoppage-time goals turned a confident performance into an uphill climb in Group D of the MLS is Back Tournament.
Reflecting ahead of SKC’s next match, a Friday night bout with the Colorado Rapids (8 pm ET | ESPN, ESPN Deportes; TSN in Canada), midfielder Ilie took comfort in the chances they’re creating. Eventually, he feels, they’ll go in and winning ways will return.
“The problem would be if we don't trust ourselves and if we wouldn't feel that we can score those chances,” Ilie said via video conference call. “I think that after a loss, especially when you cannot score as you wanted or as you deserve it, the best thing is that you have training the next day to start improving and to start trying to be more accurate in front of the goal.”
Three of SKC’s 13 shots against Minnesota landed on target, as Gadi Kinda and Alan Pulido failed to test Tyler Miller with any of their combined six attempts. Pulido, the club’s record signing, was particularly dynamic against Minnesota and carved out Khiry Shelton’s opener with a clever midfield turn.
Focus also shifts to the potential result, with Colorado and SKC both winless after their opening matches. They’ll need a positive result to set themselves up to advance, with group-stage matches also counting towards the regular-season standings.
Despite that, manager and sporting director Peter Vermes said he doesn’t feel too much urgency. They’re 2-1 overall, and came flying out the gates with wins over the Houston Dynamo and Vancouver Whitecaps before the COVID-19 pandemic stoppage.
“I'm more concerned, more focused on how we perform going into the next game,” Vermes said. “That's what our focus has been all along, and that's how we're looking at it. I always said that the first three games were league games, [so] if for some reason you advance then it's a different objective at that moment. But right now, we're playing our league game is the way we're looking at it.”
As for Colorado, Vermes singled out the aerial presence Kei Kamara brings as a particular threat. They’ve largely turned in solid performances under first-year head coach Robin Fraser, and he expects nothing less on Friday. His remarks almost mirror SKC’s approach, in fact.
“I expect them to be very aggressive against us,” Vermes said. “I expect them to high press and try to put us under a lot of pressure. I also expect them to try to counter really quickly when they win the ball.”