RSLvSKC Quotes: "It was a complete performance today"

Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes

On back-to-back wins after opening the tournament with a loss…

I’m glad that right now in league play we’re 4-1-0. It says a lot. Unfortunately, we had a tough game in the first game here. Unfortunately, we lost a game that we should have had in our back pocket but we didn’t. And I really liked the reaction of the team since then. It seems like from game to game, we’re getting stronger and stronger. I’m very proud of the players that not only started the game with some of the changes that we made, but also I’m very proud of the guys that came on. I thought that Felipe Hernandez had a tremendous 30+ minutes for us. Gerso again is electrifying off the bench. Daniel came on and he had some good stuff there at the end – getting behind the guys, he tackled, he fought for stuff which was good to help close the game out. It was a good way to finish off the three games. All these other games are icing on the cake. Our objective, and I said this from the beginning, was the three games. I’m disappointed on the first, but really, really proud of the guys for how they reacted and responded in the next two.

On the physical nature of the game…

Stuff happens in every game. It was a tough game. It’s always a tough game between them and us. We’re both very competitive and we both want to win.

On the changes to the starting lineup…

I think that it was the right group to go and get the job done in the way that we wanted to play. I already knew the subs prior to the game. We spoke a lot about how we thought the game would go and where we would have to add energy, especially late in the game because we knew that they would make a push. I thought that we finished the game really, really strong on two fronts – physically and also the way we managed the game. The changes were based on trying to get the win and the result in this game.

On finding a rhythm with lineup selections…

We’re absolutely still working on it because it’s almost like we’ve only played three games. It’s not five. Although we have, there was a big break in between. Fitness is a big thing. You could see Johnny – we had the break and I went to him and said, ‘Can you give me all out for five more minutes?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll give it to you. I’ll do it.’ I’m trying to push him. I’m trying to push different guys to keep increasing their fitness in this kind of weather. It’s good. They’re getting stronger with each game. That’s a good thing. In no way do I or us as a staff have it figured out yet. As you saw today with the changes we made, they helped us. And I found out something about our team today. The guys adapted to something in the first half and as much as they had possession in the last 25 minutes of the first half, the guys did a really good job of adapting and adjusting without us telling them to do something. They actually sat back in a little bit. It wasn’t 30 yards from our goal but we dropped almost to the midfield line and really gave them less space to work with. Although they had the ball and they were moving it, we really didn’t give up any chances. It’s just a mental thing that you have to overcome that is the other team has the ball and you don’t get caught up in that.  And then what we did was we turned the tide in the second half. In the second half, we played a little bit more penetrating and a little bit more direct and I think that was the difference in the second half. Bringing on those fresh guys, they can be vertical and obviously Gerso’s goal puts the nail in the coffin. His electricity off the bench is huge. It’s a valuable asset to have when a player comes in with that type of mentality and quality.

On the team getting acclimated to the conditions…

Subs and the changes and everything just have to do with the accumulation of games in a short period of time. The climate and all of those things have a piece to that. Also, certain guys come into games and give certain qualities that you need against other opponents.

On the play of Gianluca Busio…

I didn’t play him today because somebody was tired. I played him because he deserves to play. I’ve told him that many times since we started this year. I told him, ‘You’re going to get time because you deserve to play and because you’ve earned it, not because I’m taking a young guy and giving him experience.’ He’ll continue to get those minutes and help the team because he’s that type of player and he’s growing every day.

On the favorites in the Knockout Round…

We were never one of the favorites. I don’t believe that they believe that we are one of the favorites.  And I don’t think we’re one of the favorites. I think the best team at the tournament thus far has been San Jose. They’ve played very well. They’ve found different ways to win games. They’ve fought. They’ve defended. They’ve done it all. They’re the favorites to win the tournament from my perspective at this moment. I don’t think we are and I don’t think we deserve to be.

On the team’s buildup to the final goal…

There are moments where you can score a goal by everybody touching the ball. There are others where you win the ball, you turn, the guy knocks the ball into space, threads the needle, the guy goes in, it’s two passes and it’s a goal. In either circumstance, when you look at the goal either way in its entirety, what you tend to focus on is the final finish. What I do is I’m focused on the decision making of the players and the allocation of the spacing on the field. What was very good on that goal was the allocation, which allowed us to keep possession, it allowed us to move the ball and it allowed us to find the open man. And finally, the brilliance of Gerso was able to be on show where he was put in the right position to be really dangerous.

On the team’s defensive performance…

They actually pushed the game. From like the 20th minute through the 45th minute, they had the ball. And they were moving it very well. My point is that they really didn’t create that much in regards to great chances on goal. That was a credit to the way that our guys had patience. I thought Zusi did a really good job all game long because the player that he played against I think is very good and has a lot of energy. He likes to go at people and Zusi was really patience. His delaying, his 1v1 defending was top notch. We had a lot of that which was very good. We didn’t over-commit and open up other situations in behind us. When I was saying that I learned a lot, it was when the guys kind of sat back in that last 25 minutes in the first half – what they exhibited was that they moved well from side to side. They had a good compact group. But they really didn’t give crazy chances away. They gave possession away but they didn’t give up chances. That’s good to be able to hold onto a game when maybe at the moment something’s not working for you or you need to catch yourself, the guys were able to do that.

Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Tim Melia

On advancing to the knockout round despite losing the opening game…

We did we had to to get through. Obviously I was the one who started the error in the first game, the boys came up big in the second game and then I thought we had a pretty complete performance today. We did enough to get through and now we’re on to the next stage.

On if he feels like Sporting KC is one of the favorites to win the tournament…

I don’t think so. I think our goal is just to continue to move forward. I think we just need to get a little bit better each game and I think we did that, especially this game. We handled the different phases of the game really well collectively as a group and now we just build off each performance a little bit more and we just want to keep going and keep going.

Sporting Kansas City forward Johnny Russell

On Gianluca Busio’s potential…

Of course, he’s got a massive future. Bus is one of the players that’s been with us for a while, since he was probably like 15. His development over that time has been great, but obviously we want to hold on to him for as long as we can but if he keeps showing signs of progression the way that he has, then he’s got a huge future in this game.

On the rough nature of a Sporting KC vs. Real Salt Lake rivalry game…

Difficult game, it always is against them. Difficult conditions but we knew what we had to do to get the points and to go through in this tournament as well, that was the only aim coming into the game. We started well, obviously getting the early goal helps but they had good periods in the game but I thought we weathered them. We finished strong, we looked like the team who could have got a few more as well so we learned our mistakes from the first game, we’ve moved on since then and like Tim said earlier, it was a complete performance today.

On scoring within the first 49 seconds of the game…

We’d worked on a short corner in practice and that didn’t come off, but it was a great ball into the box and like you said it came off a few bodies, bit of a ricochet everywhere, and then just dropped to me nicely and I caught it well on the right foot – doesn’t happen too often – so it was a nice one to take. It was nice to get the early goal as well, it settled – not that we had any nerves going into the game – but it just settles you down, you’ve got that goal behind you.

Real Salt Lake Head Coach Freddy Juarez

Overall thoughts...

I take total responsibility for that first goal. I didn’t have the guys ready coming out of the locker room for the beginning of the game. After that, I think we found the rhythm of the game and started finding the pockets we talked about in pregame. We had some chances where we got into the box and got some crosses that we didn’t get on the end of. We just didn’t connect on those properly and I think it got to the goalkeeper’s hand 2-3 times off a cross or we shot it into his hands. In the second half I again think we started to try and catch our wind and we were a little bit slow. Then, at the end of the game we have to try and be aggressive. We got a little impatient and could’ve found the third or fourth pass a little more often that way we could’ve really made Sporting shift. We started rushing and that tends to come with the hot conditions while you’re chasing the game. So sometimes you lose a little bit of focus. Then Sporting gets the second goal and that came from us throwing everything at them and there’s fatigue and our guys played a lot of minutes and today wasn’t easy. KC capitalized and they’re a good team and I thought we were pretty good on the day as well, it’s just some moments where we could’ve been better. Obviously if we’re capitalizing on those chances in the final third it changes the game.

On conceding early...

You go into a match with a good focus, chats and training. I missed something there and didn’t have the players focused there and there’s two ways you can handle it: You can either break apart or you can continue. I think we continued and from there it went well. They started sitting back a little bit and we had to try and really pick them apart. They take a lot of the space away in behind, so we had to pick them apart with precise and intricate passing and combination play. On a day like this it was already going to be challenging to do that. Even then, I think we did some things well and any time you’re in control of that possession having to throw numbers forward you’re always vulnerable to a counterattack. The other team makes some changes and we knew they were going to try and run at our backline whenever possible and Gerso has a good goal.

On the defense against Sporting KC...

I thought they were brave hearts. I thought they went in there and as much as you want to encourage the guys, they ran their tails off and our backline wasn’t any different. It was a set piece that they got and at the end it’s 100% tired legs. It’s not from a lack of focus but you’re caught in transition and you can’t get that second defender close enough because there’s space. So, I’m of our backline, our goalkeeper, our midfielders our forwards. You couldn’t ask for more defensively. It was just the way the game was going to be and we were either going to handle that moment or it was going to be use hoping they didn’t capitalize with us throwing numbers forward and they did.

On the first goal shocking the team...

They get the corner kick and from my point of view, I thought his shot went off of Aaron then bounced back off of him then went out. I may be wrong but that’s what I saw. I think from there maybe we get lost in the moment and I think our team was thinking it didn’t go and we weren’t in agreement with it. Again, maybe I didn’t focus enough on that at the beginning of the game and they capitalize on it. Even then I think there was a scramble in the box and we had to get rid of it and we just couldn’t. Again, it’s 100% my fault that I didn’t have them focused because I think the rest of the game our guys were focused.

On advancing to the knockout stage...

We’re in a good moment right now. We compete and we’re used to these scenarios. We’re disappointed 100% and we wanted those three points for the standings, but we have also put ourselves in a position to advance last night. You can’t sit and could’ve should’ve any of that it’s all eyes forward. It shows real character that comes out. Character for your team, the love for your club and the love for competition. You can’t sit and dwell on the negatives and if you do, it becomes not a fun game and you can’t get ahead. So now it’s over and we move on and focus on regen and see who we play in the next round.

Real Salt Lake defender Justen Glad

On conceding the early goal...

It’s always tough to start that way because that kind of puts you on the back foot down 1-0. You’re starting behind which is always tough because you have to chase the game. I thought we responded well after that and started playing better once we woke up a little bit. But you can’t make that mistake and be asleep on that first goal.

On the play that led to the goal...

You can point your finger at this and that on the reasoning but it’s just about alertness and when that ball is in the box you have to make sure you’re the first to the ball. Scrambles like that happen and it’s just making sure you get a toe or whatever it is to clear it out. Unfortunately, we didn’t do that.

Real Salt Lake defender Aaron Herrera

On already advancing to the knockout round...

We already knew we were through and the points from these games count towards the regular season. So they were still important. But we’re through and we don’t know what’s going to happen after this tournament, so we need to make sure we take advantage of our time here and look to pick ourselves back up in the next game and send ourselves through.

On the defensive performance...

We did what we could. When you’re chasing the game it’s different because you can’t sit back in defense and giving them that early goal, they were able to conserve their energy and sit back. Obviously then we had to push forward, and we knew they were going to have a lot of counter attacks coming forward. For the most part we dealt with it well, but they got the goal at the end and they had some fresh legs. Credit to Gerso for the good finish but when you’re chasing the game it’s a lot tougher to defend because you have to commit numbers forward and look for the goal. It’s not how we want to be defending.

On the offensive performance...

We have to have more composure in the final third. I think we’re getting up there a lot and whether it’s the final run or the final ball, it hasn’t been good enough from us the whole tournament. Even against Colorado we score two goals and one was a good finish and one was fortunate but at the end of the day I don’t think we have enough composure in the final third and it’s something we need to work on going into the next game. It comes naturally with playing games when we sort of get to figure out what our teammates want. Where they want the ball. Having this break definitely didn’t help. At the end of the day I think it’s just effort from us. It’s more wanting to score more goals and play the runs off the ball. We need a lot more movement and like I said, composure in the final third if we want to create anything.

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