A few minutes before Sporting Kansas City took the field at Children’s Mercy Park on Saturday, Manager Peter Vermes gathered his squad in the stadium locker room.
Midfielder Felipe Gutierrez had prepared a video to show the team prior to kickoff against the Chicago Fire. His intention? To remind his teammates of the club’s undeniable quality when everyone is clicking on all cylinders.
In a Wednesday afternoon interview with Soren Petro on Sports Radio 810 WHB, Vermes relayed the story without going into too much detail about the video’s specific subject matter. But the message was poignant nevertheless: with confidence on their side, Sporting are capable of making serious noise in MLS.
“For a player in his second year with us to do something like that, it tells you a lot about the culture of the club and the team,” Vermes said of Gutierrez’s pregame deed. “That means a lot to me because it shows the guys haven’t lost their motivation. They know that they have something and they believe in what they’re doing. That’s everything to me, because that’s what you can rally around.”
Indeed, Sporting used the pregame clip as a catalyst in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat of Chicago, which vaulted the club from 12th to 10th place in the Western Conference. Sporting sit five points below the playoff line with 15 regular season matches still to play, and for everything that worked against the team during the first half of the campaign—an unprecedented injury outbreak chief among them—Vermes’ men remain in the thick of the postseason hunt.
“It’s a good stepping stone to get on the right tracks here, and I feel good about the group,” said Vermes, who also cautioned that Vancouver Whitecaps FC will offer a stern test on Saturday at BC Place.
“Other leagues don’t have parity like MLS does. This game (against Vancouver) is one that I take as seriously as any other game we’ll play. It becomes so important because it’s the next one. They came to our place and took two points from us when we gave up a goal really late.”
Vermes stopped short of calling the forthcoming fixture a must-win, but clearly articulated its extreme importance as Sporting look to continue their climb up the table. When asked if his team will get over the hump and secure a ninth straight playoff berth, the 11th-year manager delivered a clear message.
“That is our objective, and we’re going for it. I think we have the team to do it even though we’re in a hole. I really think we can do it.”
Saturday’s contest in Vancouver will kick off at 9 p.m. CT on FOX Sports Kansas City Plus and Sports Radio 810 WHB. It will also be joined in progress on FOX Sports Kansas City at the conclusion of Royals baseball.
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