Quotes: Postgame reaction from SKC 2-1 PHI

Reaction to Sporting KC's 2-1 win against Philadelphia

Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes

 

General thoughts on the match… 

The important thing was that we came out to play. I told the guys, we love to make it like bookends - we win the first game of the season and make sure we win the last game of the season, to get a chance to go into the playoffs with that mentality. And I thought, you know, we have a little adversity – they get a PK, and they score. The next thing you know is that we have to come back, get that second goal, and keep the mentality going. It’s good to have that culture within the team – they didn’t come out to play for just a tie tonight, and I thought that was very important.  It was a great effort by the boys to do this two years in a row. It’s not easy. It’s a consistency from the players. It’s a standard of excellence that they’ve set, and to do that you also have to continue to be able to do it in big games. And I think tonight again, this was a big game. This was a big opportunity. Everyone else was watching, they’re waiting to see what the result is, and at the end of the day, it’s over. They’re just fighting for their spots, and no one can overtake us. It’s a good place to be.

 

Comparing the 2012 Sporting Kansas City squad to the 2011 squad… 

I think we’re a lot more experienced. I think the Open Cup has been a great learning environment for us. When you have a final here, like we did last year for the Eastern Conference championship, we weren’t ready yet. Players, staff – we just weren’t ready yet to undertake that game.  We did it in the Open Cup here at home, and I think that experience is going to lend us throughout the playoffs. We also know now going into the playoffs that a whole new season starts. For everybody, it’s a clean slate. It’s not going to be easy that’s for sure. But at the same time, I think we’re well-seasoned for playing the playoffs. If you look at our last eight games, they’ve all been real battles. It’s not like a change of game going into the playoffs. It’s going to be a fight. It’s going to be a war. And I think right now we’re ready for it.

 

On Kei Kamara’s two assists tonight and his evolution as a player…

The first [assist] was a great play all the way around. I say this all the time – when we get out and we start running at people, it’s very hard for them to stay with us. It’s very hard for them to control the environment that we set at that point. It was great movement off of the ball. Everything from when we won the ball, to when we opened up the run, to the early service, to [Jacob Peterson’s] run into space. With CJ [Sapong], we work on that movement every week. It’s good when you see a guy finish that off the way he did. But then again, Kei [Kamara] took over in that situation, and as I’ve said to him many times – when he wants to run at people, he can be the most dominant player in the league. But obviously you can’t do that for 90 minutes, right? He picked a great moment to do it tonight.

 

On captain Jimmy Nielsen missing Meola’s regular season shutout record by one…

Unfortunately for [Nielsen], he made a great save. But it’s actually a great learning moment for us because we weren’t ready for the rebound. We were second to the ball. Hoppenot did a great job anticipating the play and got there and beat us to it so from that point of view it’s going to be a great learning lesson. I know Jimmy, and he just doesn’t care, and I really mean that – he doesn’t care. He just wants to win. But I feel bad for him because he’s been so stellar all season long, and it would have been a nice thing for him to tie Meola’s record at sixteen. 

 

On Paulo Nagamura’s injury…

He just turned his ankle a little bit. I think he just made the decision that “it’s probably best for me to get out.” And I think it was the right decision at the end because when he was getting ready to get back on, I said “Hey look – if you feel anything, just get off. We can put somebody else on – no problem.” I’m going to let the [trainers] check it out, but the great thing is we’ve got 10 days. He’s a tough dude.

 

On Espinoza remaining off of the game day roster due to injury…  

He had two days of training  but it wasn’t enough. Now he has the rest of this weekend, and into next week. He’s got a good lead up into the game, and I think he’ll be ready to go.

 

On captain Jimmy Nielsen’s season and leadership:

His game has definitely gotten better since he’s been with us. The team has gotten better as well. It’s been an evolution for everybody. The thing I’d say about Jimmy is I think his goalkeeping speaks for itself. He’s an excellent goalkeeper – technically, his work habits. He’s great. The thing you don’t know about a guy when you bring him in is how good he is in the locker room. After Davy [Arnaud] left last year, I had to make a decision on who the captain was going to be. I believe the captain is an extremely important position in the team and in the locker room. I chose Jimmy, and I didn’t expect him to be as good as he is. He’s a tremendous leader. He’s a great extension of the staff to the players. And at the same time, he has a great demeanor on the way he conducts himself with the players. They lead because of his example, not because he tells them that they have to follow him. Not a lot of people have those qualities, and he does in a quiet way that is fantastic. He’s been a tremendous addition to this organization and will be for years to come…. because guys like him, you can’t let go.

 
Sporting Kansas City captain Jimmy Nielsen 

General thoughts on the match…

I think it was a weird game to play. You’re playing against a team that had absolutely nothing to play for, in my opinioin, they came in with a little “street smart” attitude. A little dirty here and there but we took care of business.

 

It was a weird game to play, with all the respect for Philadelphia, but they were all over the place. I don’t want to say they were unorganized, but you could feel they didn’t have anything to play for they risked it a little bit more and were maybe a little more lousy on their defending. It was a very, very weird game to play.

 

On the goal from Philadelphia after he blocked the penalty kick…

It happens, it’s happened to me before and it’ll probably happen again.

 

On whether or not he is in his prime in his soccer career…

I don’t know, I know it’s important. I’m enjoying playing every day, looking forward to coming out to practice every day. You know, every time I wake up I can’t wait to get out there and that’s very, very important that you’re still hungry, you’re still motivated when you reach my age. I don’t feel like I’m 35, maybe I look a little older, I’m losing my hair, but I’m blaming that on my kids, I’m enjoying life and having a great time here so I hope that will continue for another few years.

 

Sporting Kansas City forward Jacob Peterson 

 

On his goal…

The finish was the easy part on that goal. The build-up was good, holding it up the play then laying it off then Kei running through. It was really a team goal, the definition of the term really. I was fortunate enough to be on the end of it. I think if you look at the tape on that, we had a lot of hard runs out there. When you move and you have skillful players, youre going to get the ball a lot of the times. It was really Kei’s goal and the second one was the same thing. Kei (Kamara) attacked the defense and there was a great run by C.J.  (Sapong) and Kei put the ball right in his path and C.J. did well to finish. 

 

On Kei Kamara’s performance…

I honestly think he is one of the hardest players in the League to stop. Not only is he an athlete and everybody knows that, but his feet are unbelievable too. He's a very skillful player and he is aggressive and he runs at guys, I don't think there is anybody in this League who can stop him. Obviously, he's a huge part of what we do. 

 

On clinching first place going into the playoffs…

It's something that we set out to do. We wanted to win the Open Cup and we did that. We wanted to win the Supporter’s Shield, but San Jose had a good run at the end of the season. So, next we wanted to win the East and get home field advantage. But, its not finished. We have another big goal that we want to accomplish. If we can keep doing the little things right, we will be successful in the playoffs as well.  

 

On the team’s main focus going into the playoffs…

I think the one thing that we have really been good at is playing defensively Not just the back four and Jimmy (Nielsen) but everybody, all the way throughout the field. We always outwork teams and I think thats one of the main reasons for our success. Especially in the playoffs, with not a lot of high scoring games, I think if we can continue to get after the ball with the three up top and through the midfield and the back, I think we'll be successful. 

 

Sporting Kansas City forward C.J. Sapong 

 

On going into the playoffs for the second consecutive year …

I think we have a really good chance. But you have to take it a game at a time and you have to come to play on that day. 

 

On scoring the game-winner…

Scoring the goal at the end felt good. It sealed the win for us. I had been a little frustrated up until that point, I didn’t feel like I was too dangerous the whole game, but as a forward, you need to take those chances when they come along. It was a good feeling when I took it and a good feeling when it hit the back of the net. It was a really good feeling to end the regular season on a win. 

 

On reaching his career high of nine goals this season…

Before the season, I set a benchmark for myself to do better than I did last year. I had hoped to get double digits, but I finished one away.  I do feel like I had more of an impact on the field this year than I did last year. I just want to continue to progress and get better. 
 
Sporting Kansas City forward Kei Kamara  
 

On the win…

It's great. The fact that we're playing at home, and we get to finish it off like this is awesome. The way we've been playing all season, it wouldn't be fair for us to just finish off saying be happy and go off with a point when it's a team we know we can dominate, and we're home we definitely just have to keep it going and keep doing what we've been doing. We weren't going to go out there just to go with the flow of the game and settle with a tie, no.

 

On his evolution as a player..

My game is just getting better because of experience, and experience means I listen a lot better to the coaches and I read the game a lot better now.

 

Philadelphia Manager John Hackworth

 

General thoughts on the match… 
It’s tough because I think we played a really good game for parts of it. I thought we made some pretty poor mistakes in other parts. I don’t think the mistakes that we made can be made against a team of the caliber of Sporting Kansas City. They’re a good team, you have to give full credit to them, but I’m also proud of my team because I thought we stood toe-to-toe with them for a long time and had numerous opportunities to go up in the game.  We were unfortunate to not get at least one more goal in there.  Jack McInerney hits the post on a header inches away from Nielsen in the first half. It’s tough. It’s disappointing but at the same time I thought we played well and well enough to get a result here. It’s kind of been our story the whole year.  We play at the same level but we gave up opportunities.

 
On going into the second half down a goal…

We just made a couple of tactical adjustments. We brought in Antoine Hoppenot into the game.  To Gabriel Gomez’s credit, he played really well in the first half but we saw that Sporting was playing a high line and we thought we could get behind them with Antoine’s speed. It was a little bit of a gamble but when you’re down 1-0 on the road you have nothing to lose.  65-70 minutes in I didn’t think there was a chance we were going to lose the game.

 

On looking ahead to their season finale against New York this Saturday…

We have to recover. This has been our second game in four days. We’ve got some tired bodies in there- mentally and physically. We’re a little banged up- we’ve got some injuries. We’ve got to regenerate. I know we will be ready for New York on Saturday.

 

Philadelphia Union forward Antoine Hoppenot

 

On the team’s improved performance in the second half…

We knew we just wanted to get the ball forward and into their half.  We felt we were playing too much in our half too much the first half.  Our center midfielders did a great job pushing the ball up and creating chances and finding us. Cruz did a great job drawing the penalty and fortunately I was there to rebound and score

 

On the quick turnaround when they face New York on Saturday…

We’re used to it. We’ve had a lot of quick turnarounds. We know what we need to do and we will be ready for Saturday. 
 
Philadelphia Union defender Amobi Okugo…

 

General thoughts on the match…

It's a tough matchup every time we play Sporting KC with the recent results this past season when we beat them 4-0 at our place and they beat us at home in the Open Cup semifinal. Especially with the setting for this game, if they win or tie it was always going to be a tough game. I thought we matched up pretty well. It took us a little while to get into it. But you saw in the second half that it was a dogfight. Unfortunately, we didn't get the result we wanted. 

 

On the team’s improved performance in the second half…

We came in at half time and coach did a good pep talk.  We didn't do as well as we thought we should have in the first half and we didn't want KC to celebrate here in front of us at our expense so I think that motivated us a little bit.

 

On the season finale against New York…

New York is a rivalry game. We haven't beat them this season so we have to give the home fans something to remember going into offseason and to build into next season. We have to get out of this slump that we've been in with two road losses and it's going to be good to end the season at home against one of our rivals.