Quotes: Sporting KC 1-0 Cruz Azul - March 12, 2014

Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes

Thoughts on the match...
This is a competition that we have been waiting for two years since we won the U.S. Open Cup and qualified. We knew going into the quarterfinals that Cruz Azul was going to be the most difficult opponent that we would face. It's a very good team, well coached and the players are technically sound. For us, it was a big match and we expended a lot of energy. We worked very hard and it's a shame we could not get a second goal. We had some very good chances. But all in all, I think our work ethic ruled the day. But if you really take it over a 90-minute match, this is the first half and we have another half to play when we go to Mexico. We still have a big challenge in front of us.

Thoughts on Kevin Ellis scoring...
It's great because he scored for our team ... that is what's great. In the end, it's all about the team. It's obviously a big story for our organization since he is a homegrown player. He comes into a very special moment in our club's history and finds himself with a goal as well as playing a good game. It's a good step in the right direction for him but he has a long way to go and he has to keep getting better.

On the defensive effort...
We talked about the fact that it will take every roll of the ball for us to be concentrated and focused for 90+ minutes. We knew they were very crafty and they could find opportunities off mistakes and capitalize very quickly when you are not paying attention. I thought our concentration was excellent. Take the situation with Ike [Opara]. For his recovery to get to the goal line and not give up on the play when he could have ... it showed tremendous heart and it just shows the character of the group.

On the physicality of the match...
It's always interesting to me that everyone comments on the physical play. I think the difference is that we don't provide a lot of space for teams. They are under pressure and when you are close, it's a man's game. There is a going to be some contact here and there and at the end of the day, I think the pressure is something that helped us throughout the game and never let them settle in. To be able to do what we did for 90 minutes, that early in the season, being our second game and coming off a game three days ago, a tremendous effort by the guys. That is what it means to be Sporting Fit.

Thoughts on the second leg...
I expect for them to come out and throw everything at us. They are playing at home and are a very good team. We knew them well before this game and we know them a lot better now. And they are not going to go down without a major fight. We are going to have to be prepared for everything and as much as our concentration and focus and work ethic was good here, it will need to be double there because it will be a difficult match.
 

Sporting KC defender Seth Sinovic

On his goal line save...
It had more to do with Benny. I got lucky that Benny got to it. I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time at the end there.??????On Sporting KC controlling the game...???I thought as a team we pressed the game pretty well and I thought we controlled most of the game and had the majority of the chances except the one or two that they had. It was a good performance. I wish we could have gotten another one, but overall a pretty good result for us.???

On Kevin Ellis' play tonight...
He did really well. He was confident on the ball, very strong and organized defensively. Obviously a great goal too, so it was a huge game for him. He is obviously a talented player. He's got all the capabilities - very physical and very athletic. It's just getting repetitions in that position. Growing up he wasn't playing outside back, so it takes time to learn the position and I think he's grown every year and continues to make improvements.

On the team's depth...
The guys have stepped up really well. We've got a lot of depth at a lot of different positions. Whether they are starting the games or the guys are coming in off the bench, everybody's making a big impact on the game and that's huge.

Perception of Major League Soccer's progress...
There is so much parity in our league. It's hard to say that we're representing our league alone. Obviously we won a championship last year so there are a lot of eyes on us. At the same time, there's a few other teams still in the competition for MLS so I think we're all trying to prove that we're capable of winning this competition.

On if the high pressure system was surprising to Cruz Azul...
If they watched tape, I don't think so. If not, then probably. Anybody that's seen us play knows that's how we play and that's what makes us effective.

Sporting Kansas City defender Ike Opara

On his 45-yard strike...
Coach gives me a hard time in practice because I like to shoot random times and he calls me center forward. So, I figured I would let one go and show him I could play forward.

On the goal line stop...
I thought we did a good job with Besler winning the first ball but then they got us quickly on the second ball. The counter through, I just gave it my all. As soon as I saw him take a touch around Krony I knew that I had a pretty good chance of getting there. It's just one of those things that guys fight for each other and I wasn't going to give up on that play.

Heading to Mexico City with the 1-0 lead...
It's obviously a good thing. We wanted to get the win and keep a shutout and we did that. It gives us a chance going down to Mexico City and hopefully we see it through. We know it's going to be a tough battle. But, we're up for the challenge.

On gameplan for second leg...
Peter and the staff will come up with a game plan. He's very good at coming up with game plans especially going on the road. I think we'll see something similar to what we saw tonight.

Sporting Kansas City defender Kevin Ellis

On scoring the game-winner in front of your hometown fans...
It means a lot. But more importantly we got the win and that's what means the most. We know if these games when it's home and away, you have to win the home game. The main focus is to get three points heading into Mexico City. It definitely feels good, but there is no time to rest or to be satisfied. We have Dallas coming in on Saturday and we have to get points.

On the goal...
It started as a corner. The ball popped out, but I stayed up and Claudio hit a world class ball with the outside of his right foot. I just took a touch, put my head down, took another touch and hit it and hoped it went in and it did.

On potential of getting switched to the left because of Seth's suspension...
I have played some games at left back. I can play on both sides of the field so if the opportunity presents itself, I'll be ready.

Comparing game strategy in road match at Seattle and tonight's at Sporting Park...
We go out every game to win the game. We don't play for ties. I think in Seattle we got unfortunate. We played really well defensively for 93 minutes and 40 seconds. We had one lapse all over the field. It wasn't just the back line. It wasn't just the midfield. We win as a team and we lose as a team. We all know that and it feels good to come back home and get a win.

Cruz Azul Manager Luis Fernando Tena

Thoughts on the match...
I think that today we faced a strong opponent.  They came out very strong. I think that about the 24th minute we got better; our possession was better and we had more of the ball in the opposing side of the field. In the second half, I thought we were the better team and had more of the possession. [Sporting KC] is a good team. They are well positioned, did a good job on the defensive side of the ball and we could not find a way to tie the match. We tried the whole game to find that goal and I thought we deserved the tying goal but in football it's about actually scoring and we were unable to do that. The series is still wide open. It's going to be a very difficult game back home in Mexico. It will be a well-fought game with two very good teams going at each other.

On the physicality of the match...
I think it was an intense game. There was a lot of determination on both sides. Definitely a lot of tough play but there was fair play on both sides. The second game will likely be more of the same, a hard, well-fought game with two teams going at each other hard, but with fair play.

Thoughts on Sporting KC...
[Sporting] Kansas City is a solid team, especially in terms of their formation. They are very compact and defensively are very strong in the back. They defend as a team, which makes them hard to break down. At the same time, in the attack they have some very dangerous players, specifically [Graham] Zusi and [Claudio] Bieler.

Thoughts on MLS...
MLS has obviously progressed. Technically, the players are very gifted. They are still as athletic and strong as we have always known them to be. They have always had this characteristic, but now you see very technically gifted players as well. You see that improvement to the point where MLS and Mexican teams are very even in terms of quality. It's difficult to separate them and that has been shown not only at the club level but at the national team level where the U.S. national team has demonstrated that there is that evenness between Mexico and the United States.

Topics: