Sporting Kansas City (16-7-7, 55 points) punched their ticket to the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs in resounding fashion, earning a 2-1 road win over Western Conference leaders Seattle Sounders FC (17-7-7, 58 points) on Saturday afternoon at Lumen Field. Post-match press conference remarks are below.

Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes

Thoughts on the match…

They’re a very good team. They’re incredibly competitive. They find ways to change gears in games as a team. I think it was a really good, important three points at an important time of the year. It shows a lot of moxie on the quality of our guys because you can have quality, you can have all these different things but at the end of the day if you don’t show up at the times that you need to, you don’t achieve anything. Being able to get three points and secure a playoff spot is a huge objective of ours. We got it and I’m proud of the guys. They deserved it. They worked hard. They weathered different situations within the game that weren’t always Seattle and they did a really good job with it.

On the team’s competitive nature…

There were a lot of fouls called. Whether you think they’re a foul or not, it doesn’t really matter. You have to defend and we defended really well in a lot of situations. I thought Tim (Melia) was really strong and brave in a lot of different plays, which really changed the game for us. It held a lead that we needed to have. Even though they scored and tied us, we still maintained ourselves throughout the game.

On the return of Nicolas Isimat-Mirin…

I thought he was tremendous. I think he shows the quality that he brings both with the ball and also defensively. He is a special player in that part of the field, for sure. Between his reading of the game, his ability for 1v1 defending, his athleticism, he’s just the whole package together. He’s a very, very, very good central defender. It really assists our team in a different way. It lets us move different players around which helps immensely. All of that really, really worked well for us in the game and he was a big part of it.

On the absence of Daniel Salloi…

He turned his ankle in the game against the Whitecaps. It’s day to day. That’s what it is. When he gets back, he gets back. He’ll be okay. It’s just going to take some days. It’s going to depend on how fast he accelerates through the rehab part of it.

Sporting Kansas City captain Johnny Russell

Thoughts on the match…

It was a tough game, I thought. We started the first half so well. We controlled the game really in the first half. Then in the second half, we conceded possession a little bit and sat back too much, sat too deep and invited the pressure. They’re a good team, they’re going to create chances. They get the goal from that. I was a bit disappointed on that front, but then the goal we get is a great team goal. A great counter attack. It’s a great win, especially after the upset last week and dropping points. We had to come here and win. We knew that. We had belief. We’ve come here and done it this season. A massive win but it means nothing if we don’t continue into Wednesday with three points there. It’s a big win but it’s just another three points and a step to the ultimate goal and that’s finishing at the top of the conference.

On scoring on the team’s only shot of the second half…

You only need one shot. We had to tweak our game plan a little bit just for the threat that they’ve got. First half, we really nullified that. Second half, we allowed them too many chances. We’ve shown time and time again this year how mentally strong we are and how resolute we are. I thought our shape was great and difficult to break down. We’ve always got the quality to hit teams whether it be on the counter or whether it be in possession. We’re a dangerous team that scores goals.

On if game-winning goals mean more to him and breaking Preki’s record for consecutive games with goals…

Of course. I scored at Vancouver and obviously that was the one that broke the record but it meant nothing to me because we lost the game. This one is a bit different. You get a goal against one of the top sides in the league and it wins you the game. Those ones mean a lot more. I spoke to Preki before the game as well and he was just congratulating me and saying that records are there to be broken so that was a nice touch from him. Everyone knows how well thought of and how much of a legend he is here. That was nice. I’ve got a pretty good record against Seattle. I always seem to pop up with a goal against them. In games like that when it’s top of the table, games are decided in those moments. I’m just happy that it could have been me and I’ve put it away to help the team win.

On looking ahead to the last four games…

We’re all professional. We look after our bodies. The staff look after us extremely well and our preparation for games. After games, we recover and we get ready to go again. We’re not the only team that’s doing this. There are plenty of other teams that are playing the amount of games that we’re playing. We’ve got four left. We win out and we’re top. That’s what we set out to be at the start of the year. By winning out, it’s in your hands. We’ve got no one to blame if we don’t do it but us.

On the buildup to his goal and his celebration…

On the counter attack, it’s how fast we hit them on the break and we kept the ball brilliantly. They stepped to press us and we broke the press so well by a long ball from Ilie (Sanchez) to Roger (Espinoza). We hit them quick from there. The celebration is a bit of fun. I’m getting stick all game. I usually do here. It was just a little bit of banter back. Some people can’t take it but that’s not my problem.

Sporting Kansas City midfielder Remi Walter

On scoring his first goal for Sporting… 

I’m very happy to score my first goal because I think today it was very important for the team, for the group and for me. We won and I scored my first goal so I’m very happy today.

On the physicality of the game and his health…

They kicked my ankle two times. It’s a game. When you play against the first place team in the league, it’s always like that. It’s normal. I’m very good and we keep going for the next game.

On whether he’s played in a league with playoffs before…

It’s good to have a good motivation every day because our objective is to finish first, for sure. Today we are happy because I think it’s a good win. Before the playoffs, we have four games more so we keep going. The most important thing is to be ready for the next game.