SKCvMIN Quotes: "We did ourselves proud in getting the points today"

Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes

On the team securing the victory late…

From the opening whistle, I thought that we were relentless in pursuit of the goal. Minnesota is (second) in the standings because they’re a good team. They’re a solid team through and through. They didn’t give too much away, but we were relentless tonight. There’s no doubt that if you look at the overall game…the points are well deserved. It was the relentlessness of the guys in pursuit of that goal. That’s why we scored in the 88th minute, because we weren’t going to be denied. We had too many chances. It was a great weighted pass by Johnny (Russell) and an excellent run by (Erik) Hurtado. He had really good intelligence to see the goalkeeper coming out and get around him. He’s a very powerful guy so for him to make the separation like he did doesn’t surprise me. He did a really good job of finishing the ball. He had both central defenders recovering to the goal as well. It was a good finish.

On the team’s defensive performance…

First off, I think we were very organized. We were aggressive in the right moments. And we were excellent in the air today, both when balls were played out by their goalkeeper and service from the outside channels into our box. I thought we were very, very good. The other thing is, too, is when (Darwin) Quintero came on, he started to buzz around a little bit and cause a little bit of problem. But we also made a few changes at that moment to get some fresh legs on the field in a couple positions. I would say for about 3, 4, 5 minutes that we lost our rhythm a little bit but then we got back into it. And then the game got spread out. We had good legs at the end of the game to stay compact and also, defensively we were very organize. Our decision making was excellent today.

On the team’s tactical approach to the match-up…

There are certain things that we are very aware that they do both offensively and defensively. Those are the things we worked on this week. I think one of the things that we were very good at was in the buildup and in possession and it’s because one of the things that we talked about that we wanted to do based on things that they do. We executed very well today. We were very good on the ball for most of the game. We didn’t give the ball away in really bad spots that put us under pressure.

On Ilie Sanchez coming off the bench again…

We’ve had some guys that have played a lot of games this season, more so because we started out with so many games in the beginning of the year with Champions League. I have to keep a freshness in the group. Ilie has put in a lot of hours on the field. I think him given the chance to sit in these two games and help us come out and close the game has actually worked really well because he has a lot of energy. And at the same time I’m able to move the guys around like I did today. If you look, Roger (Espinoza) came out. Benny (Feilhaber) came out. We were able to move other guys in there. When Ilie is brought into the game, he gives us a really strong stability. Starting off the game, it’s been pretty good. It’s not to say we’re going to stay that way or not, but it was just good to be able to give him rest because he’s got a lot of hours underneath him right now.

On the play of Graham Smith…

I would say from the last game to this game, he actually grew up a lot. He was much tougher, which you have to be as a central defender. You have to be tough. You have to be hard to play against. Tonight he was strong in some tackles. He was strong in some headers. He was much better in the second half in his aerial duels than he was in the first half. We need that in games like this, especially when teams want to play balls vertically on us. He was good there. He was also really good with the ball. You can see that he’s starting to feel it and that’s a good thing. I’m glad that each game he’s getting better.

On the team starting to find its rhythm…

I’m not going to talk about where we’re going. All I know is that we have an objective. We have to gain as many points as we can between now and the end of the season. We did ourselves proud in getting the points today. We get a couple days off….and then we’ll have a really good solid week next week and get ready for our next game. We have a lot of work to do and right now it starts with our game next week.

On the play of Erik Hurtado…

He wants to do well for the team. I think the good thing about him is he’s got an incredible work rate. He’s very powerful. He causes a lot of problems. When you have two big guys like they do in the back, when you have smaller guys like him that have a low center of gravity – it’s hard at times for them to deal with a guy like him. And he’s very explosive. He showed that on the goal he scored and a few other plays as well. He’s put those guys under a lot of pressure and a lot of stress in the game. For me, I felt like we needed to keep going with that because the game gets late, guys get tired and we have an opportunity to maybe sneak something and we did.

On Erik Hurtado’s goal…

It was good awareness. He’s an explosive guy and so the separation that he is excellent. That’s because of his explosiveness.

Sporting Kansas City forward Johnny Russell

On setting up the game-winning goal late…

As the game grew, we knew we were going to have to create something. It was a great ball in from Ilie. I managed to get there with time to turn. It was a great run from Erik (Hurtado). I put it in a good area for him, but he does all the hard work. He gets in front of the defender, takes a great touch, rounds the goalkeeper and tucks it away. It’s a huge goal for us. Everyone knows how poor our season has been, but we’re never out of it. I think that we’ve shown in the last two games that we’re not ready to give up.

On the team finding a rhythm…

I think it’s just clicking a bit more. Before this, we were working hard. It was just frustrating when things didn’t work out. Things we were doing last year that worked out well, for whatever reason wasn’t working this year. We know we’re running out of time. We’ve had a bit more impetus to attack and attack in numbers. We don’t have long left. We need to start picking up points. We’re going to have to win the majority of the games we’ve got left.

On the team’s relentlessness…

We’ve got great players with a lot of quality, especially in the attack. We work hard together as a team. And then we’ve got players who can create something. We were relentless tonight. There were a lot of frustrating opportunities that we felt we should have done better with but we kept going. We knew that we would create one more chance. We’ve always got that belief that we will. It came at a massive time for us and, like I said, it was a big, big goal for us by Erik. It’s what he deserves for the way he’s been working for us. He leads the line so well up there. He works tirelessly. For him to get the match-winner tonight, I’m delighted for him.

On the team’s belief in finding the decisive goal…

There’s always a relief. We know we’re going to continue to create chances. We just haven’t been taking them as often as we would like. There were a lot of games that if we took our chances, we could have put the games to bed. We don’t and we wind up losing the games because of it. You can look back through the season how many games we’ve done that in. We kept going. We knew were going to create at least one more chance. And when we did, a massive goal – a great goal.

Sporting Kansas City forward Erik Hurtado

On his goal…

The whole game, I try and score goals. That’s my job. It wasn’t going in the first couple times. I just felt like I needed to take an extra touch to set myself up and it went in. It was a big relief for the team and for us to go ahead. When Johnny (Russell) gets the ball and he’s cutting in, I’m looking to get in behind. My speed is going to get behind the defense every time. I’ve just got to be composed in front of the goal. That’s what I told myself when he played the ball, ‘Stay composed. Stay relaxed.’ And I did.

On playing against Minnesota’s backline…

It was a good battle with both of (the centerbacks). They’re good defenders – physical, aggressive, fast. We talked a little smack with each other throughout the whole game. At the end, I think I got the better of them.

On his run to create the chance…

It’s second nature. I just go in behind. That’s what I do. That’s what I’ve been doing since I can remember. Johnny (Russell) played a magnificent ball. My teammates had been playing me the ball the whole game. I put it in.

On the team’s energy…

I think we’ve always had this belief in us. Last game, it gave us a little more energy. This game has given us a lot more energy. We’re ready for Houston. We’re ready for this.

On beating the goalkeeper 1v1…

The first couple of times that I had a chance against him, he saved it. I just felt like I needed to stay composed in this situation. I just took an extra touch to stay composed, I pushed it past him and I was in and I put it in.

Minnesota United FC head coach Adrian Heath

First impression at the end of the game…

Disappointed. We put a lot of effort in, created some good opportunities, were dangerous on the break and (the goal came) so late, it’s a bit of a killer. I was pleased with some aspects of our game, but we have to do better in the final third. I thought we created one or two good opportunities. I thought the game was very even. We looked dangerous on the counterattack most of the evening. Certainly, in the first half we had two or three really good opportunities and we didn’t pick the good ball. Just disappointed, I think.

On Sporting KC having most of the possession…

We were prepared to let them have it in certain areas. I thought we had a good shape. Obviously, they have some good attacking players. Johnny Russell’s a threat. Chase (Gasper) stuck to his task admirably because he’s a difficult customer. Standing on the sideline I thought we were going to see it out. It’s a little bit disappointing.

On Wilfried Moimbe-Tahrat playing on the same side as Johnny Russell…

He’s played fullback most of his career or wing back, so he’s used to that. I thought, considering he hasn’t played for a long time, he did well. He got forward, combined well with his teammates and put some good crosses in the box. He’ll be better for having the hour he had.

On Thomas Chacon’s debut…

Obviously, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind for the kid. He hardly knows anybody’s name and we wanted to get him some action. He’s 19 years of age and he’s signed for five years so we’ve got a lot more to see of him.

On the upcoming Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final…

It will be a build up until Tuesday. It’s a huge game for us considering we’re two and a half years in but we can look forward to it with excitement. I’ve said to the players before, I’ve played in cup finals and won them. I’ve played in cup finals and lost them. People go, “We’re going to enjoy it.” Trust me, you only enjoy it when you win and that’s what we’re going to have to try and do.

On Ike Opara’s intensity tonight…

It’s always an added incentive when you come back to your home club, especially a club that you’re sort of synonymous with and a club that you gave so much to. You saw the reception here from the fans. That was sort of fitting. He got that type of reception because of the work that he’s done. He’s put a lot of time in here, played a lot of big games for them and Ike’s been terrific for us.

On the message at halftime…

Keep a good shape. Stay disciplined. Try and have a little more quality on the counterattack. Can we pick the final ball out? Can we create something for somebody? I always thought that we looked like we might create a chance here and there. Even late on, we had a couple that went across the face of goal, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Minnesota United FC defender Ike Opara

On if anything about his homecoming caught him by surprise…

Just how difficult it is emotionally and being on the other side of the locker room. Coming in here and trying to get a result is never easy. The perspective of being on the away team was an awakening a bit. At the end of the day, we did what we could to possibly get a result. It just wasn’t our day at the end.

On playing against his friends…

It’s weird, it really is. You could see them try to run their mouths a bit or make jokes with me, so you just try to stay locked in so you don’t lose yourself in the friendship. It’s definitely not easy. I wanted the win but unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be today.

On finding his zone…

It was difficult as a whole. Our team, we tried to not be on the back foot and I think we were for spells, which is inevitable but we just couldn’t get our rhythm. That just makes it difficult to try and lock in, in all phases of the game. I think that guys performed admirably and that it just wasn’t meant to be.

On the upcoming Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final…

We’re going to Atlanta, who it seems have hosted a final every week now. They’ve got a bit of experience. We’re a little young in that perspective as a team, but we do have experience with individuals. We’re going to have to really come together in the next four days and put our best foot forward because it won’t be easy just like tonight. It’ll probably be more difficult with the form that Atlanta is in right now, but we’ve got to be ready.

On what the final means to the club…

It’s special for sure. It would be more special if we win the thing. We’re trying to take the right steps to grow this team in the right way. Tuesday is really the first opportunity to send our best foot forward as an organization.

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