The 2012 MLS Cup playoffs haven't even started yet, but Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes said they've already cleared one hurdle that kept them out of last year's MLS Cup title game.
Sporting reached the Eastern Conference Championship in 2011, after surging down the stretch to finish atop of the conference table, but fell 2-0 at home to the Houston Dynamo. One problem in that match, Vermes said, was that his club didn't approach it the right way.
“You can get caught up in knowing that it's a home match, but you forget that it's a final,” Vermes said on Wednesday, during the team's weekly news conference. “Those are two totally different things. A final's a final. The other team doesn't have anything to lose. They can't just come in here and bunker up and leave with a point. We needed to realize last year that the game is 90 minutes long.”
This year, though, Sporting have already been through a home final – the US Open Cup title game, in which they outlasted the Seattle Sounders in a penalty shootout after a deadlocked 1-1 scoreline through overtime.
“I think the Open Cup has given us the platform that we needed to overcome what occurred last year in the conference final,” Vermes said. “It was the same situation. They were both finals, and they were both at home.”
The Open Cup victory also gave Sporting's players – many of whom were on the pitch for the 2011 loss to the Dynamo – a taste of what it's like to win a final at home.
“That in itself is part of the combination to that safe,” Vermes said, “and we cracked it.”
More Spain shopping in Sporting's future?
Midfielder Uri Rosell's quick meshing with the club, after his midseason arrival, has come as no surprise to Vermes – not only because of the Spaniard's skills, but because of the environment in which he came up.
Rosell, who has one goal and has been solid in his midfield appearances for Sporting, came up through Barcelona's system and was with the Spanish giants' B team before coming to MLS.
“If you take Spain, Holland, Portugal, those being countries that play a lot of the same system that we do, those are easy places for us to go and look at players,” Vermes said. “If financially it could be done, I would probably go for a lot of players from Spain, because I think they would fit well into our league and fit well into the way we play. But sometimes, financially it's just not feasible.”