As far as opportunities go, it doesn’t get much better than this for Sporting Kansas City.
Starting tonight against Portland at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park, Kansas City, which would occupy the 10th and final wild card spot if the playoffs started today, has 11 games to prove they belong in the race for MLS Cup.
Fortunately for manager Peter Vermes’ team, eight of those 11 matches come at home, including two crucial tests this week against the Timbers and a D.C. United team making it’s own push up the table. Victories in both games could push Kansas City to within a point of first place. Defeats would make the rest of the dates on the schedule close to must win.
And after dropping what appeared to be three points against the Sounders a week and a half ago, Sporting doesn’t need to be reminded of the significance of every chance they have to pick up results.
“We have to win almost every single one of (our home games),” midfielder Roger Espinoza, who was suspended against Seattle, said. “We had the chance to beat the Sounders, and the red card was probably the reason why we lost. We have eight games to prove ourselves. We can’t lose any games at home, and we know that.”
Realistically speaking though, Sporting (7-7-9, 30 points) can probably afford to drop a point or two at LSP and stay in the playoff race as long as they take a few points from their remaining travels (Real Salt Lake, San Jose, D.C. United).
The most important thing, however, will be to hold court at home and avoid defeats against fellow borderline playoff teams – four sides have either 30 or 31 points – while cleaning up against Eastern Conference opponents.
“We’re in a good position right now, a couple points out in the (Eastern Conference),” forward Kei Kamara said. “All we have to do is win some games (at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park). This is the advantage that we get. We need to win at least six of these eight games at home. If we can do that, we’ll be in a playoff position.”
Vermes finds prices high, options lacking in trade market
Kansas City has done some poking around MLS in search of a center back to shore up a defense beset by injuries, but Vermes said nothing concrete had emerged so far.
“There’s not a lot out there,” he said. “Whatever is (out there), team’s either don’t want to move that guy or if they do, they want something ridiculous.”
The trade deadline and final day to sign unattached free agents is September 15, meaning Vermes still has another month to survey his options as he waits for a cadre of injured players to recover and teams at the bottom of the table to turn into sellers.
One move that could yet materialize is a deal for 21-year-old trialist Peterson Joseph. Joseph, a Haitian midfielder who was most recently in Portugal with Braga, has been training with the team for the past few weeks and played against Newcastle on July 20.
All signs point to the team trying to come to an agreement with Joseph, but Vermes said things have moved slowly so far.
“I’ve thought it seemed likely for awhile,” he said, “but obviously it’s not done yet.”