One of the highlights of the buildup to the start of the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs is the beginning of the unveiling of the league’s end-of-year awards.
That includes MLS Sigi Schmid Coach of the Year (Jim Curtin), Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year (Andre Blake) and Defender of the Year (Walker Zimmerman), as well as the MLS Best XI presented by The Home Depot.
Sporting Kansas City, the team that finished atop the Western Conference, were shut out of the awards to this point but that doesn't bother them one bit, coach Peter Vermes said.
Instead of seeing it as a sign of disrespect, Vermes said it highlights what he’s known all along — the team is what matters most in Kansas City.
“It is definitely a team. We say its our number one core value in our club, the team is always first and I love the fact our guys buy into it,” Vermes said in a video conference call with reporters Friday. “In the end, all they want to do is win something together. I think they can care less about the individual awards.”
Vermes said he also doesn’t put a lot of stock into Sporting’s remarkable bounce-back season, the greatest turnaround in MLS history with Sporting finishing 11th in the West a year ago and missing the postseason, because their Round One match against the San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday at 3 p.m. CT “is a final,” because it's a single knockout match, albeit at Children’s Mercy Park.
“It’s feel good that we did well this year, but it means nothing going into the postseason other than home-field advantage,” Vermes said.
Vermes also had kind words for his opposite number, Quakes coach Matias Almeyda, who he said has at times been harshly and unfairly criticized for his unique aggressive man-marking system.
“They get chastised or criticized for at times playing man-marking, but at times they are incredibly organized and they have an incredible work ethic on the field,” Vermes said. “We have an incredible amount of respect for their game, the way they go about their business and we know it’s going to be a battle.”
Vermes has never given much credence to pundits opinions of his own team. However, he was touched to receive letters of encouragement from the club’s fans before the start of the playoffs.
Those letters were read by Vermes and a few of his players in a video Sporting released (video above).
“When our fans see what we’re doing and recognize us, that’s everything to me and I think to the team,” Vermes said. “That’s a big reason why we step out on the field and the players play with the motivation that they do and we as a staff work the way that we do, to prepare and get ready for our the next opponent because we always take in mind we want to perform and get positive results for them.”