#SKCvPOR Quotes: "I think the guys accomplished a lot this year"

Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes

Thoughts on the second half…

It’s hard to comment on the third goal. The other two I think were two goals – even though Blanco scores a great goal from distance – I think we just gave way too much room on both goals. That one and the other one as well, I don’t think that we stepped out to their players in those areas of the field and put them under pressure enough. They had way too much time on the ball. Obviously, being down 2-1 we get back into it at 2-2 and we’re pushing everything forward and they get the third. We had some chances to get there. We definitely had some chances. We just couldn’t finish it off.

On reflecting on the year…

At the end of the day, I think the guys accomplished a lot this year. They evolved as a team. They played very well. It was an enjoyable group to coach on a daily basis. We’ve got a lot more ahead of us. We’re in a good direction. I’m proud of them and the work that they gave the club and this city over the course of this year.

On the difference in the game…

I think that we were in control of the game from the get go. I thought that we were good. We were unlucky not to get that second goal – a soft call in my opinion but it is what it is. We get in at halftime winning 1-0. I think if you just look at the two chances that we gave up, those two chances are what were the difference in the game. It’s a great goal by Blanco but he should never have the chance to hit a ball from that distance without pressure. We had no pressure on him at all. I think that was the difference in those two situations.

On conceding the equalizer…

I just don’t think in that period of time we were getting out to the ball with enough pressure. I just think that we sat back too much and gave them too much time on the ball on both goals. We just didn’t get out to the guys like we normally do.  We just didn’t and we gave them too much time on the ball. I think the goal caught Tim by surprise. It was a great hit, not denying that part of it. Congratulations to Portland. They came and they played hard. They took their chances and they move on.

On conceding the go-ahead goal…

I think we got right back into the game. Again I go back to it, when they gained a little possession in our half, we just – for those two moments – we were dropped off too much. There was one time in the first half, if you remember late in the half, they had the ball almost at the end of the half. We talked about it halftime – we’ve got to make sure we get out and get pressure on the ball. We just didn’t do it. In those two actions especially, they hurt us.

On the intensity dropping in the second half…

It wasn’t our intention at all. It was more we came in and said, ‘Hey, we’re 0-0 again. We’ve got to get going in the second half.’ I can’t answer the question for what the players were thinking at the time, but that was our intention at halftime. We still wanted to stay on the front foot. We looked at the game as being 0-0 and we still needed to win so we’ve got to try to win the second half again. When you don’t get pressure out on players that are good, they wind up being great players. Especially the second goal, how that guy has a chance to chip a ball from there over us – that’s not the normal us.

On using this experience in the future…

I think situations like this, they’re going to stick with you for a long time. It’s a motivating factor in my opinion. I remember years ago playing against Houston here at home and we won 1-0 but we didn’t score enough so we lost. Today feels a little bit like that game. It’s going to be hopefully a motivating factor going into next year. We’ve got a lot of different things we’re involved in, especially Champions League to start off right away.

On seeing such a talented team come up short…

You also have to understand that the League is different from even a year ago. It’s the most talented team. You also have an opponent to play against. We have a group of guys that have proven they’re a good team in a lot of ways, but we’ve still got some work to do. 

On not capitalizing on the chances created…

I played the game for a long time and I’ve coached the game as well. It always comes down to the same thing, right? You try to minimize your mistakes. And then you try to capitalize on the opportunities that you get. We had some very good opportunities today. We for sure could have stuck some balls away that we normally do. We didn’t. In games like this, that’s usually what comes back and gets you. At the same time, you’ve got to work hard to get those opportunities and I’m proud of those guys from that perspective. It’s not like they didn’t give everything they had. We just made a couple mistakes today and they capitalized on them. I said going into this that it was really going to come down to who can minimize the mistakes and who can capitalize on the mistakes of the other team. They probably did that.

On finishing first in the West, but not advancing to MLS Cup…

We always want to win trophies. We didn’t win a trophy this year so I think we came up short.

Sporting Kansas City captain Matt Besler

On the pain of the season ending…

It hurts right now. We came up short. We were close, really close. At the end of the day, we didn’t make enough plays when we needed to in this game. We have to give credit to Portland because they did, both attacking wise and defensively as well.

On Portland’s play in the second half…

We talked about it at halftime how important it was to start the second half strong because we knew the game wasn’t going to finish 1-0. Their season was on the line so they were going to throw everything they had at us, so we needed to be ready for that. Unfortunately, we weren’t. We had a bad spell there for 10-15 minutes where we were a bit spread out and a few of Portland’s attacking players were able to find those spaces. Their most creative guys got on the ball and they made plays in that 10-15 minute spell.

On how close the game…

That’s the game. In a two-game series, the margins are so small. I’m not sure if we could have drawn up a better first half, performance wise other than not getting more goals. We did score three but two of them got called back. We knew the situation that we were in at halftime. It was a really good first half but we also knew that the game wasn’t going to finish like that and we needed to be ready. We had a few decent chances there at the end but Portland made enough plays and made the plays they needed to advance and hold on.

On trying to make adjustments mid-game…

Soccer is a free flowing game. It’s on guys that have experience. There are certain ways that you can do that, whether it’s through a stoppage of play and maybe getting a few guys together and just talking and saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got to pick it up a little bit or there’s some space around the center of the field that we need to close up.’ But it’s also just guys stepping up and making plays when they need to. Unfortunately, it was the other way around.  A couple of their guys were the ones who were making plays in that 10-15 minute spell. They made really good plays. Blanco hits a shot that is a world-class goal. The ball that he plays over the top is a very good pass. On those plays, unfortunately we have to give credit where it’s due.

Sporting Kansas City midfielder Ilie Sanchez

Thoughts on the game…

They were good. They did their job and we were almost there. It’s the end of the season. We are sad, but we need to use this offseason to come back stronger next year, because we will have thick competitions to fight for. 

Thoughts on the season as a whole…

It was a fun season. We showed that we are able to play really good soccer. We showed that we were able to win everywhere and also here at home. Tonight was a key moment for us and we didn’t do our job. We are disappointed because of that. We have to use this season to come back for the next one stronger. 

Sporting Kansas City forward Daniel Salloi

On his injury…

I couldn’t sprint in the second half, so I asked for a sub. It’s unlucky. I wish I could’ve finished the game. 

Thoughts on the season as a whole…

I think it was a great season, for me personally and the whole team. I think we deserve to be here tonight. I think if we were a little bit luckier, we would be in the final, but it happens. We’re just going to have to recharge and come back stronger for next year. 

On the disallowed goal…

Ike was blocking the goalie’s movements, so he couldn’t get to the ball. That’s why they called him offside. It was because he was offside. He wasn’t pushing or something. It wasn’t a foul. It’s a fair call. I didn’t see it in real life but as I watched the replay, I saw it immediately 

On the rareness of the call…

I think it was similar in the first Atlanta game with the New York goal. I hate this rule. I don’t like this rule in general because I think goalies have so much more of an advantage with their hands that they should figure it out. But it’s soccer and you just have to get used to it. 

On the energy after the first goal…

It was amazing. The crowd was amazing tonight as well. They really helped us. I kind of had the feeling we would need a second one. They only needed one goal and then we would have to score again. It’s very difficult to play like this. They have this away goal. If they score, you have to score another one and another one. It was 2-2 at the end and we gave everything. We got unlucky. They went on a counter and scored. You can’t do anything with that at the end. I wish it would’ve been different.

On the number of late-game opportunities…

I think all season we were very good at creating chances and also finishing them. Tonight, we scored two goals again. It’s unlucky that we couldn’t score there [Portland] but I was confident that we would score at home. I was just hoping they wouldn’t score more goals or the same amount.

Portland Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese

On his emotions after the match…

Very proud of the performance from the guys. I thought it was a very difficult first half. I thought they were very good and we were lucky to be only one goal down, but then the character came out in the second half and I thought we were very, very good. We were able to find the three goals that we needed. The guys were just excellent. We played together. We put the fight that we needed to put into the second half. I’m just very proud of the performance.

On what he said to the team at halftime…

Some words were said to the players and in the end we came out with the fire that we needed in the second half.

On Sebastián Blanco’s goal in the second half…

Incredible. I had a perfect view. Blanco has scored some amazing goals, but this one was incredible. You have to remember that we beat a very, very good team. Peter [Vermes] has done a tremendous job. We had to give everything because they made it difficult in a difficult stadium. This makes me even more proud because it was against a very good team.

On closing out the game over the last 20 minutes of the match…

In some moments, we were a little sloppy. Sloppy in the sense that we were chasing and making sure that we defended in close spaces because they were coming from different directions. The guys put their heart into it and they believed all along and then, at the end, we got the third goal.

On winning the Western Conference Championship in his first season as coach…

I’m very proud of the performance from the guys and what they achieved. It’s all on them. It’s a credit to a group that worked hard, a group that believed all along that we can achieve something great, and now this achievement has put us where we want to be in the final.

Portland Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri

On defeating Sporting Kansas City in the Conference Final…

I think we played a great second half. At the end of the first half we started to be on the ball a little bit better and that gave us some chances. Sebastián’s [Blanco] goal gave us a lot of energy and confidence to find the second one and then we defended against a good team. Then, we were efficient in the last 25 minutes. It’s a great feeling in a really hard stadium where we couldn’t win since 2013, so it’s unbelievable.

On helping Blanco find open spaces on the field…

I think he was winning the spaces that I left in the first half, but in the second one, in the goal, he did it really well. I asked him in the field and he said that he just kicked. It was a great kick.

On the changes the team made from the first half to the second half…

I think they put a lot of pressure in the first 25 minutes of the first half, winning a lot of duels with long kicks and long balls in behind, being simple and putting crosses. They found the goal, which gave them a little bit of release. They are a very good team. They open up pretty well the field, the put pressure, they are on the ball all the time, they are intense. But we found goals in the second half, with the ball, as I said. In the first part of the second half and the second part of the first half we were much better on the ball. We combined good passes, we found some chances and we were efficient.

Portland Timbers midfielder Sebastián Blanco

On his goal in the second half…

I’m very happy because that goal changed the game. We played 30 minutes back and it was so difficult, but we worked so hard every day 

On the difference in the second half…

I think the mentality. In the first half, we didn’t play good enough. I think they scored one goal, but unlucky because they had chances for two or three [goals]. But we changed the mentality enough to score a goal. We felt more confident and started to believe in ourselves. It’s beautiful. Soccer is beautiful because the game can change in one minute. Today, I think we did a great job in the second half.

On what it means to make it to MLS Cup with the Portland Timbers..

I think I worked so hard for that, of course, and the Timbers, Merritt [Paulson] and Gavin [Wilkinson] believed in me for this, so I feel happy working for my team and my teammates. We need one game more. I feel very happy for it, but we need to continue hard.

On if he knew right away his goal was going in…

I couldn’t believe it. I tried to of course shoot, but not in that place. It’s beautiful because for us it was amazing for the confidence and for feeling good. I’m very happy for scoring , the win and for playing my first time in MLS Cup.

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