Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes

On whether Sporting felt desperate to win heading into the match…

It never was desperation. We haven’t talked about anything ever since I’ve been here where it is desperation. You play with the mentality to win and you try to play the way that you play. You fight for everything and you try to get a result. That’s what we do week in, week out.

On the 2-1 win over Nashville SC…

I think the first goal was a very opportunistic goal, but that’s something you talk about all the time. You try to put your free kicks on goal because goalkeepers a lot of times are anticipating a bounce off other players. It’s an opportunistic goal in that we knew what we wanted to try to do in the game. We wanted to get the ball into the box and at the end of the day, it goes in the back of the net. We scored a great second goal, made a mistake on the goal they scored, and then they called offside at the end.

I don’t agree that [Logan Ndenbe’s] late foul is a penalty. I don’t agree at all. If you really watch it, you have a replay that lends itself to VAR. What I don’t understand is that before the player even makes an attempt at the ball, [Alex Muyl] is already leaning forward before the contact ever occurs. He never even makes an attempt at the ball. Usually you don’t fall forward. You put your foot out to get the ball and if someone hits you, that’s a different story. There were quite a few of those types of dives in the box. I will say, I think the referee did a good job. I’m not blaming the referee for anything.

On Sporting’s toughness in securing the road win…

We fought and we did what we had to do. The guys fought for everything and we did a good job of actually managing the game, putting the ball down in their end in their corners and trying to milk the game a little bit. We did what we had to and we got the three points, which was incredibly important. We also did it at a new stadium, and I know what that’s like. (Nashville) had an unbelievable amount of confidence, so this was a massive three points for us at the end of the day. Everything else is secondary to the three points that we needed.

On giving Nashville SC their first ever loss at GEODIS Park…

It's nice to do that, but we don’t get anything [extra] for it. It’s just three points and we needed three points. It’s good to get some guys back. I give credit to guys like Khiry Shelton and Remi Walter. Remi was definitely not 100 percent, but he put everything out on the field today and did a great job. Khiry being able to go 90 minutes was a very tough job. He did a lot of hard work that we needed in the game. Daniel Salloi having been away and not played with the [Hungary] national team, it was important for him to play and give us the minutes. He did the business, too. I think Andreu Fontas and Nicolas Isimat-Mirin, Graham Zusi and Logan Ndenbe, those guys played very well in this game. They were organized and concentrated for 90 minutes. I thought Cam Duke had a really good game. I know he gave that ball away and they went down and scored, and I know he’s disappointed. Sometimes that happened, but his teammates fought to help him still be successful. It’s a good learning experience for him, but he played well when he was in the game.

On Graham Zusi’s penchant for long-range goals…

When I drafted Zusi in college, he was a No. 10 who played underneath the forwards. He really was a lightning rod at Maryland, and that’s what he was when he first came here. Then he moved to winger. So he’s really comfortable around the goal and he’s really proficient with both feet. He hits a really good ball. I think that’s what it comes down to.

On the performance from forward Khiry Shelton…

It was all his work off the ball. I thought he was good on the ball, and I think it’s a little unfortunate because he doesn’t get the same kind of respect that so many other players do. He played really well and was very good defensively. The other thing is he was very good on set pieces. He won a lot of balls in the air.

Sporting Kansas City midfielder Felipe Hernandez 

On scoring in his hometown…

Growing up here, I played five or 10 minutes down the road at some complexes down here. On Father's Day, my dad, my mom and a bunch of my family were here; my brother, too. It was really exciting. I put the ball in a good spot, put it on frame and when you put a ball like that on frame, anything can happen. A little touch, a little skip and it went in.

On the team’s performance today… 

We did really well first half. Defensively, we were really compact and we did well as a unit. With the ball, we kept the ball a lot and moved the ball around so we didn't have to defend as much. When we did get put in situations, we defended pretty well as a unit.

On the conversation with his family before the match…

I called my dad this morning and he usually doesn't really like gifts or anything like that. I told him I would score for him, and he was like, “That's the only gift I'll accept.” He came up to me after the game and he was tearing up, so it was a special moment.

On Graham Zusi’s game winning goal…

He took a touch and they weren't really stepping out to him. I made a diagonal run and dragged either their midfielders or center backs. That opened up the space for Zusi and as soon as he took that touch. I knew he was going to hit it and knowing him it was going in.

Sporting Kansas City defender Graham Zusi

On the importance of Sporting’s 2-1 win and his long-range goal in the second half…

I thought our start to this game was the key to the victory. This game in particular—people said it was a must-win game—but they’re all important. It was a nice one to have in a tough place to play. We seemed to control the tempo of the first half. We kept the ball, played out of the back, kept the ball in their half and we were patient. We got some pretty good opportunities and I think that set the tone for the game and we took some chances. Felipe Hernandez’s goal was an opportunistic one with some runs in the box, and when you do that you get rewarded sometimes. My goal was a situation where we were on the attack and we pressed in that moment really well. We were in good spots for their clearance, picked the ball up, Felipe made a run to open some space for me, and I just brought it onto my left foot and had a go.

On the momentum-building result…

It’s a big result. I think it can do a few things. For one, I think it can give the group some confidence and momentum. We showed what it takes to get three points in a tough place to play—and what it takes physically and mentally to get through something like that. It can be a steppingstone for the rest of the season. There are still lots of games left and teams go on runs all the time. I think this is a good time for us to go on one of those.

On Roger Espinoza’s late-game yellow card prior to VAR overturning the awarded penalty kick to Nashville…

We have to give Roger Espinoza a lot of credit for what he did. I think it was a very savvy play by him. I honestly thought they were about to let the PK go ahead and be taken, but I honestly think if it wasn’t for Roger going in and delaying that, I’m not sure they would have looked much more at that offside. Huge credit to Roger in that situation. I saw the play on the big screen and it looked like a bit of a soft one to begin with. I wasn’t even aware that they were looking at offsides [on VAR], but Roger saved us big time.

On Sporting’s defensive display…

We had a huge emphasis on our defensive shape and our movement from side to side this week in training. I thought that translated into this game extremely well. I can only speak for my side of the field and I’m sure it was the same on the other, but I felt really comfortable releasing and pressing their wingback. Isimat did a fantastic job covering for me.