SKCvCAI Quotes: "This is a big moment for the club"

Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes

On the first goal…

The great thing is we had a good mentality. We never stopped and it was a matter of finding the first goal. Their goalkeeper, he stood on his head today. He had a lot of great saves and played very well. I thought he made a great save on (Graham) Zusi’s free kick. I think that was a big moment in the game. There were a few chances we had where he didn’t make saves where we kind of played them wide. I just felt it was inevitable. We were too good to not win the game and go through.

On being the first Sporting team to make the semis in the Champions League…

It’s a historical moment in that we’ve never made it this far and for us to take this step. To now have a little bit of a break, too. We play this weekend and then the FIFA window comes up and we have a little break there where we can get a couple of days off. The great thing is that the guys have worked really hard. The way that we’ve prepared up until this point, we’ve put a lot of emphasis on finding a way to get through these first two series and we’ve done that. It’s a big moment for the club but obviously we’ve got a big challenge in front of us with Monterrey.

On what was said to keep the players focused…

I said, 'Defensively, we’ve just got to stay disciplined. We don’t want to get too anxious and all of a sudden leave us open for them to score a counter.' They did that against Toronto. That was one. The other piece was that everything else offensively was very good other than that we wanted to hit some early balls in behind their defense. It’s the way Roger (Espinoza) scored, actually. The ball that went from Gerso all the way across the goal and then Johnny (Russell) came in like he was going to shoot and then passed the ball to Roger and he scored. Well, that ball behind their defense, all their guys were basically facing their own goal at that moment. A lot of the situations we were getting down to the goal line and all their guys, the goal was behind them, and they were facing out. Now, in this moment, they’re actually facing their goal which put them under a lot of stress. I think that was the difference in the second half. Then we got great runs in the box. I don’t think we were going to be denied today. I thought the mentality of the guys was great. They knew what they had to do and they started from the opening whistle.

On the pressure situation early in the year…

If you watch the Champions League game yesterday between Barcelona and Lyon, they were winning 2-1 and all of the sudden they popped in three or four goals late in the game. I’m not telling you we’re Barcelona, but what I’m telling you is it’s kind of the same idea. The way that we play. The kind of pressure we put on the other team, especially in a game like this where the other team sits back as much as they did. You’re going to be in and around the box and you’re either going to stick a lot in or the goalkeepers going to stand on his head like he did today. But the great thing is it’s really hard to absorb that kind of pressure for 90 minutes and not succumb yourself to a goal. We deserved it. We deserved probably five more. I’ll give the goalkeeper a lot of credit. I also appreciate, very much, the way our guys managed the game today. There was a big difference in this game today in that we wouldn’t have done two, three, four years ago. From the opening whistle it was obvious. They were already walking. They were already tired is the way they were playing it off. The ball would go out of bounds and they would walk 15 to 20 yards to go pick up a ball. It bothers me so much about the game because I don’t think the game should be played that way. But we’re going to face that, and we have to be able to be mature enough to deal with it and we did a great job in managing that. What was great was how the tables turned and they wanted the game to be hurried up and our guys were very intelligent in the way that they managed the game at that moment. It’s nice to be able to turn the tables on someone who wants to play that way. We don’t want to play that way ever. It was nice to be able to just manage the game. To be up one, two, or three to zero.

On mentally getting over frustration…

What happens is you start to give up. Guys stop running in the box, and you have got a great play, but you don’t have enough numbers. We kept the right mentality. We kept going. You can still score. You can score in the last minute. It was there for us. It was just the mentality and that’s what it comes down to.

Sporting Kansas City forward Krisztian Nemeth

On the team’s breakthrough in the second half…

We knew that after the first goal, it was going to be a different game. I have to say their goalkeeper was amazing. I’m happy to score the first one and after that, of course, the game was more open and we created more chances. The team did a really good job tactically and physically. Everything was perfect.

On advancing to the semifinals…

We go game by game. We have a lot of games. Now we have to prepare for the weekend. We have a game against Colorado. Of course, we know the Mexican team is dangerous. We’re going to play against Monterrey. It’s going to be a good test for us. We go into the game expecting to win. We’ll see what is going to happen.

Sporting Kansas City midfielder Ilie

On the emotions of the match…

I think that we were pretty calm and conscious of the game that we needed to play. Obviously, we are happy because we are in the next round. We are going to face a really, really good team. CAI was tough and a well-deserved opponent for us. I am also happy because the team found a way to go to the next round.

On the breakthrough…

We knew that was coming. When we finally scored, they had to do something else. I think that we managed those situations pretty well so they couldn’t do anything.

On the gamesmanship by CAI…

We came here to play soccer tonight. They came here to try to do their game. That’s why we have a referee. I think the referee was pretty good. We can not control (the time wasting). It’s not our business. We just have to step on the field and try to be ourselves. At the end, everyone can play their game. I’m glad and I’m happy to be here because we play a game where we want to be the main characters. We want to control the game from the first minute to the end. I’d rather say how good we are and how well we do things here than talk about other teams.

Club Atletico Independiente head coach Francisco Perlo (via translator)

On his takeaways from the match…

Nobody put a dollar on this team.  Nobody bet for us. We were able to make it to a quarterfinal match. We put the pride of Panama at its highest. Our objective was to be a rock in front of Toronto. We were able to accomplish that. We were also a rock for Kansas City. Sporting was the better team, clearly, so there’s nothing else but to be proud of this team. The character was amazing from the players. I leave this game with nothing but pride for my team. Sadly, it wasn’t the outcome that we expected. The goalkeeper had a wonderful night. Unfortunately, those saves didn’t give us the outcome we would have wanted but I am very proud of this team.

On his message for the team…

Don’t let this ruin your night. Go ahead and have a great night. Sleep on this. You led a whole country. You had a whole country behind you that supported you. You tried to do the best you can to make this country very proud of you. Unfortunately, in a quarterfinal game, there’s only one winner. Today, Kansas City was the winner. The score reflected that they deserved to win. Congratulations to them on the victory and good luck in the semifinal stage.

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