Quotes: Sporting KC 1-0 Chicago Fire - May 3, 2015

Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes

On Sporting KC’s defensive performance…
I thought we were OK. I thought the first 25 minutes we were very good as a team. We were anticipating, we were aggressive and we were on the front foot. I think then they grabbed the next 15 minutes and for a little while it was back and forth. In the second half, neither team wanted to open up the way it did, but the game did because everybody was now trying to see if they could search for a counterattack or some type of opportunity at goal. So the game got a bit more opened up. The one thing that's good about us is I thought we were really good on defensive set pieces. I also thought we were good on attacking set pieces and then at the end, we figured out a way to keep a clean sheet and battle the way we needed to.

On Tim Melia's first start…
Tim has been very sharp in training and has got a lot of confidence. I think that sometimes a player, whether a goalkeeper or a player on the field, sometimes it's good for them to get a chance to sit back and watch. That opens up an opportunity for someone else. Tim played very well and we'll continue to move and get better from here.

On Paulo Nagamura's importance to the team…
I have a soft spot for Naga. He is a winner to me. He is a guy that when I became the coach, I really went after him. When I was the Technical Director here, I was trying to get him for years. I think he has an incredible winning mentality. He's a fantastic professional. He's a good leader with the guys and all the guys respect him. I never doubt that he's going to come into the game and give everything he has. He's 5-foot-nothing and he's going up against a guy that is 6-foot-4 and his first action of the game is him trying to win a header. That's just the way he competes and it's big for the rest of our players when he's out there.

On Benny Feilhaber's performance…
I'll say it in Spanish: 'He's got grande cojones.' I say that because in big moments in games, Benny always winds up being a guy that stands up. He sticks his head up and that's an important thing to have on the team when you are in big moments in games and guys can do that. And Benny is one of those guys. I think for the coaching staff, what is very rewarding is when you work with a guy like Benny who, maybe at times, had a difficulty with the value of certain aspects of the game and now he does that pretty regularly. Then he has a belief in them. He's not just doing what you tell him to do. He actually believes in it now. He values it and his level of play has increased tremendously and he's been a very important player for the team this season in the way he's been contributing in an every-game basis.

Sporting KC Goalkeeper Tim Melia

Thoughts on the match...
It was great for me and even more important for the team. That's a result we really needed as a team moving forward and I hope we can build off that.

On the early saves he made in the match…
I thought we just needed to calm ourselves down a little bit. We needed to repossess the ball and calm things down. It was an up and down game for us, but we got three points and the shutout and that's what is important for us.

On the diving save against David Accam…
I thought it built confidence for the guys in front me that I'm back there and can help them out where I can. It gave us a little more energy and that's when we had our best spell around the 15th minute. That was when we started controlling the game a little bit.

On gaining experience with Sporting KC last year as a League Pool Goalkeeper…
I think it was a good opportunity. It was an awkward situation, to say the least, but I was glad to come to a club like this this year because it gave me a new lease on life with soccer. Coming here just helps you mentally, and it was a place I wanted to be.

Sporting KC defender Matt Besler

On Sporting KC’s 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire…
It was a great team win. We really needed this one. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter how you win as long as you win. We’ll enjoy it tonight and then we’ll come into training and continue to improve. We believed throughout the game that we were going to get a goal. We knew it was a hot day physically, but we also knew that if we kept the pressure on them, they’d begin to fade in the end.

On Sporting KC’s defensive performance…
I thought our line was excellent. We stepped up a lot and I think it showed with a lot of their offsides calls. You saw that when our defensive line steps up high, our goalkeeper has to step with us, almost off his line to be that sweeper. It wasn’t necessarily a game plan we had against Chicago specifically, but it was more just how we wanted to play. We wanted to compact the field and step high. But at the same time, you have to be careful because Chicago is a dangerous team, especially on the break.

On the performance of goalkeeper Tim Melia…
Tim did an excellent job tonight. I can’t say enough about his performance. He came off his line at the right times and made a couple big saves for us. We’re happy for him for sure.

On Sporting KC’s next match at D.C. United on Saturday…
It will be a different experience because we’ve moved over to the West. We’ve had some really good battles with D.C. the last couple years. At the same time, D.C. is a team we really respect, and they’re playing really well right now. We’re looking forward to it.

Sporting KC midfielder Paulo Nagamura

On his game-winning goal in the 75th minute…
It was the first header of my (professional) career. Jalil (Anibaba) served the ball from the right side and he was able to deliver a great cross. I just tried to be in a good position where I could finish. Probably 90 percent of that goal was Jalil because he put in a great ball and I was just able to redirect it. Fortunately it went into the top corner.

On his mindset as a second-half substitute…
Peter (Vermes) just told me to come in and give the team a boost. At the time, we weren’t playing very well. So I was just trying to give a boost to the team and maybe find us a goal. Fortunately that is what we did.

On the significance of Sporting KC’s win…
This win is really big. The league is so competitive and the teams are really close. Every game is hard, and getting three points becomes important even more. Even though this is only our third win of the season, you look at the league and this puts us in a good position.

Chicago Fire Manager Frank Yallop

On how Chicago performed away from home…
I think we created some good chances to score. It’s frustrating when we don’t really hit the target when we should in certain areas. And then to go down a goal, obviously it was a great finish by (Paulo) Nagamura with a good ball in. But we did enough to at least get a goal today and it’s just disappointing to come away with nothing out of the game.

On the referee’s decisions…
I’m still trying to work out why David (Accam) got sent off or why Jeff (Larentowicz) didn’t get a penalty. I haven’t seen the replays so I can’t get into it, but it looked to be a penalty kick from where I was sitting. But again, I’m not close to the play. I thought we deserved a draw out of the game. To be honest, I think Peter (Vermes) would probably say the same thing. We had enough chances to have scored at least a goal. I thought Kansas City was good in the first half. I thought they had good chances, but so did we. It’s frustrating to play pretty well in the second half in a place like this that’s difficult to come to. They are a good side, but we played pretty well and got nothing out of it.

On Sporting KC’s defense in front of Tim Melia…
Whatever Vermes does with his team in changing things is obviously a coach’s decision. We had the same game plan coming in and I thought it worked pretty well. What I didn’t want to do was sit back and see what happens because if you do that, then you’re going to get beat. I would think our inability to penetrate in the first half held us back. In the second half I thought we did well. I thought we were on top of the game; we bossed it a little bit. The goal was kind of out of the blue and once that happens, you’re on top and think you’re going to win, and all of a sudden a goal and it changes things.

On the Chicago Fire defense…
We’ve got to make sure we’re tight defensively and a good unit. I think the conditions and maybe the travel because sometimes you come away from home and feel a bit leggy, and that’s not an excuse, I just felt they didn’t quite get going. We weren’t sharp in the first half, I thought. The second half we started to get our wind and get into the game. I said, Kansas City always starts very strong at home and they get at you. Once the level dropped down to par level, I thought we played well. I thought we matched them. And I said at halftime to the guys, ‘Good thing is it’s nil-nil, we’re still in this game.’ We pushed on and I think a draw would have been fair.

On the Chicago Fire attack…
The final ball and the final touch is what’s missing with us right now. We’ve done pretty well at home, but away we don’t finish off great moves. I think we’re not really there to bury (the final ball). It’s our Achilles heel right now. I think that’s the thing we’re just lacking at the moment; it’s not from belief or not trying, just off a little bit right now. It’s maybe a combination of confidence and maybe not making the right runs at the right time. But we had the opportunities to hit the target enough times in good areas, just to make the keeper work. I thought we didn’t make the keeper work enough in two good chances, and that’s the game. You don’t get many chances, probably six a team per game, and we had two really good ones from Guly and Quincy (Amarikwa), and we just didn’t hit the target. We didn’t score.

Chicago Fire defender Jeff Larentowicz

On Chicago’s 1-0 defeat to Sporting KC…
I really think we were unlucky not to score in the first half and late in the second half when we’d get to the byline and have opportunities. When we passed the ball well, we were dangerous. When we didn’t pass the ball well, we gave them opportunities. We knew that was going to happen coming into the game, and in the end they don’t have a lot of chances but they do score their one chance, and that’s the difference.

On Chicago’s missed chances throughout the match…
It’s frustrating we didn’t put a few of those away. It’s happened in the past against Vancouver. When we’re on top, we have to put our chances away, especially at a place like this. We didn’t do that. The opportunities were there. If we go through a game where we don’t create opportunities, at least we say we weren’t good enough. Today we had opportunities and we didn’t score.

On his collision with Matt Besler inside the penalty box at the end of the game…
It felt like I got there first. The referees said Besler got there first. I haven’t seen the play yet, but it certainly felt one-way to me. Even the lineman was pretty confident in the call, so we’ll leave it at that.

On Chicago’s upcoming road matches this month…
We’ve got three difficult away games coming up in-conference. We’ve got to have the ability to play well on the road. At this point we haven’t done that. We’ve shown we can play at home, but on the road it’s a different story. Like I said, in the second half we limited their opportunities but we gave up the goal. We’ve learned the lesson that you have to play well on the road to win, and we’re going to have to do that in the three away games later this month.

Chicago Fire midfielder Harry Shipp

On Chicago’s 1-0 defeat to Sporting KC…
In the last couple games, we were able to come out and kind of control tempo and control the ball, especially in the midfield. There were large parts of this game where we didn’t do that, and we relied on trying to pick up second balls, which is probably their biggest strength in the midfield. If we could go back and do it again, we would probably try to play more between the lines instead of getting the ball and being taken by the crowd and wanting to get it off your feet.

On Chicago’s missed chances throughout the match…
We’ve created a lot of chances the last few games, and we said to build on that, you need to score goals. This was more of the same thing, and eventually you have to try and switch it. Hopefully that’s next game. We’ve got three big road games coming up this month, and we’ve got to prove we can play on the road.

On the performance of central midfielders Chris Ritter and Matt Polster…
They really fought today. It’s tough because Sporting KC puts a lot of guys in the midfield. It’s always going to be a lot of running for those guys trying to pick up second balls. They were floating between up to three guys, so they covered a lot of ground and did well. It’s a tough place to play, especially for two young guys. We’ll look forward to hopefully building on this in the next couple games and trying to play a little bit more.

On Chicago’s upcoming road matches this month…
Our first focus is Real Salt Lake next Saturday. Hopefully we play well and get three points at home, then we start focusing on those conference road games.

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