With just four matches left in the regular season, Sporting Kansas City find themselves with some significant ground to make up in the chase for the Supporters’ Shield
But while the East leaders trail San Jose 60-55 in the overall points standings, they insist that they are still within reach of their first Shield since the then-Wizards' MLS Cup-winning 2000 season.
“Four games left, we're down five points,” left back Seth Sinovic told MLSsoccer.com after Tuesday's training session. “Anything can happen. We're going to keep pressing every game and see if we can get the results.”
Sporting were within three points of the Earthquakes going into last weekend's games, but their scoreless draw at Montreal and San Jose's 2-1 victory at Seattle pushed the margin back to five.
And there was a more pressing consequence to the draw: Chicago also won last weekend, narrowing Sporting's lead in the East to two points over the surging Fire heading into Friday night's head-to-head matchup at Livestrong Sporting Park (7:30 pm CT, NBCSN).
“I don't think we're really worried about what San Jose does,” center back Matt Besler said. “I mean, obviously they're five points up on us now, but we're looking at keeping first in the East, taking care of our games, and if that's enough to win the Supporters’ Shield, that's definitely one of our goals.”And while three teams in the Western Conference already have playoff spots locked up, nobody in the East has clinched yet.
But, as Besler said, it's not the most immediate goal.
“Our goal all along has been to make the playoffs first. That's one,” manager Peter Vermes (above) said. “Two is then if we can win our conference, because then we put ourselves at home field advantage, or at least high up there. Then, after that, if [the Supporters’ Shield] is still within reach, then we're going for that. We have these goals that we want to tick away at first, and that's what we have to do. We're not going to lose sight of what's important to us right now.”
That's not to say Sporting won't be watching the standings to see if the Quakes slip down the stretch.
“The pressure's on San Jose now,” goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen said. “Can they stand it? Can they do it? That's a big question. But right now, you've got to give them credit for what they've done so far. With 60 points, if they end up winning the Supporters’ Shield, congrats to San Jose. That's all I can say.”