Down 2-1 on aggregate entering Thursday's second leg matchup, it took nearly 75 minutes and almost 20 shots for Sporting Kansas City to finally find their breakthrough. Then, the floodgates opened as they bagged two more goals in the next 10 minutes.
Their 3-0 second-leg victory over Panamanians Independiente saw them advance to the Concacaf Champions League semifinals 4-2 on aggregate. And Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes felt his side deserved that scoreline, and then some.
“Probably about 10 were deserved,” Vermes said. “The great thing is we had a good mentality, we never stopped. It was a matter of finding the first goal. Their goalkeeper, he stood on his head today. He had a lot of great saves, played very well, and I thought he made a great save on [Graham] Zusi’s free kick. I think that was a big moment in the game. It just felt it was inevitable. We were too good to not win the game and go through.”
“We practice set pieces a lot,” Nemeth said. “Boti is really good with that, and it was a great ball from him.”
Independiente’s goalkeeper, Jose Guerra, saved 10 shots on the night, including two massive diving stops on Felipe Gutierrez and Zusi. His play stymied Sporting KC for almost the entire game.
“I thought the guy was like [Gianlugi] Buffon or something,” Nemeth said. “He did a great job for sure. But we believed we could win this game.”
Vermes was proud of his team’s mentality, not just to push on and score the goals, but to manage the moments of gamesmanship, as well. That's an area Sporting might not have been able to handle just a couple years ago.
“[Independiente] were already tired is the way that they were playing it off,” Vermes said of Independiente’s time-wasting tactics. “The ball would go out of bounds and they were walking 15-20 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.
“Then what’s great is that the tables turned. Now we’ve got to be hurried up. Our guys were very intelligent in the way that they managed the game in that moment.”
Ultimately, it was the mentality that Sporting had to press on for the goals, in the midst of so many things that could’ve frustrated them, that pleases Vermes the most.
“The reason why you don’t come out on the good end in [those types of matches] is that you give up,” Vermes said. “We kept the right mentality. We kept going. You can still score, you can score in the last minute. It was there for us, and it really just comes to mentality.”