Sporting Kansas City fans are treated to must-listen interviews whenever Manager Peter Vermes joins Soren Petro on Sports Radio 810 WHB.
Tuesday was certainly no exception, as Sporting’s 13th-year head coach spoke candidly on a number of compelling topics ahead of a crucial home match against Chicago Fire FC on Saturday at Children’s Mercy Park.
Vermes bookended the discussion with two timely subjects: what went wrong in Sporting’s road loss to LAFC last Friday—a result that snapped his team’s six-game unbeaten run away from home—and how the club plans to use the significant funds gained from 19-year-old Gianluca Busio’s transfer to Italian Serie A side Venezia.
In between, Vermes targeted praise on two particular players who have helped Sporting stay within two points of first place in the ultra-competitive Western Conference: MLS All-Star forward Daniel Salloi and holding-midfielder-turned-center-back Ilie Sanchez.
“Daniel’s been in great form, and the amazing thing is that it’s been on both sides of the ball,” Vermes said of Salloi, who leads MLS with 18 combined goals (12) and assists (six). “When you are an attacker in that kind of form, you put an added level of pressure on the opponent. They have to be a little bit more reserved when it comes to your side of the field. They have to be a little more cautious of that, which puts a nuanced change in the opponent that is oftentimes more conservative.”
Salloi missed the LAFC trip while on international duty with Hungary but could make his return Saturday at Children’s Mercy Park, provided his travels back from Europe go smoothly after the Magyars host Andorra in a World Cup qualifier on Wednesday.
“Daniel continuing this form is huge for us,” Vermes said. “He’s got huge confidence, but he’s also putting in work on both sides of the ball, which helps immensely. He’s been timely with a lot of his goals and his overall play. I’m really happy to see that he’s in the form he’s in.”
Vermes was also complimentary of Ilie, who has made a seamless transition from his signature defensive midfield role to a spot in central defense alongside fellow Spaniard Andreu Fontas.
“When you’re around Ilie and you capture the idea that he reads the game really well—he’s excellent on the ball and we’re a team that wants to have the ball—it made sense to push him back (to central defense) because we were in a bad spot injury-wise in defense.”
Vermes identified Sporting’s match at Houston on May 12—a narrow 1-0 loss in which Sporting dominated during the second half—as one of the defining turning points of the 2021 season. It was the first game in which Ilie played at center back, with the 30-year-old delivering a performance that showed Vermes he was perfectly capable of excelling in the position.
“In the first half, you could see he had the ideas, it just wasn’t fluid yet,” Vermes said of Ilie during that fateful night in Houston. “In the second half, suddenly that’s when our team started to take off in the way we wanted to play. Everything started coming together as Ilie and Fontas formed an immediate relationship and understanding between each other. Ilie has just been excellent in the way he sees things.”
Now that Sporting expects Nicolas Isimat-Mirin to bounce back from injury with a return to competitive action, Vermes says Sporting has “a really good rotation of guys where we can move things around in (central defense), which is really going to help us going forward.”
Saturday’s match against Chicago will kick off at 7:30 p.m. CT and tickets are available at SeatGeek.com, including Coca-Cola Family Four Packs consisting of four general admission tickets in the South Stand, four Coca-Cola products and four Domino's pizzas.
Bally Sports Kansas City Plus, Bally Sports Midwest Plus, BallySports.com and the Bally Sports app will provide three hours of live coverage on Saturday starting at 7 p.m. CT, while listeners can follow the action live on Sports Radio 810 WHB (English) and La Grande 1340 AM (Spanish).