SKCvSJ Quotes: "I think this team is built for the playoffs"

Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes

On advancing in the postseason…

Part of the playoffs always is kind of getting through that first game. What I would say is I think this opponent was incredibly difficult for so many reasons. Their system of play is not what you see on a regular basis as a team. We tried to mimic them for two weeks in training and it’s hard because our players don’t play that way. It is hard getting a team to play that way so I give them a lot of credit. They played very well. They have a great mentality. Their work ethic was tremendous. At the end, I’ve never seen that done by a goalkeeper ever before. Survive, move on, get ready for the next game. That is for sure the mantra of playoffs.

On the additional stoppage time at the end of the second half…

I was surprised that it was as long as it was. This happened to us in the game against Chicago, a very similar situation. At the end, I can’t do anything about it. It’s happened to us multiple times already just this season along with a lot of other things, but our staff and our players and everybody has decided that we’re just going to put our focus on us and try to do whatever we can to win the games and realize we’re not going to get any help along the way.

On the preparation it takes for Tim Melia’s performance in the shootout…

He’s just really good at it. I’ve never seen that in my life. I’ve never seen a goalkeeper make the first three saves in penalty kicks. I’ve never witnessed it. It says a lot about Tim. He does this regularly. It’s something special that he has. It really is. He’s a different level. I don’t get surprised a lot, but I was surprised tonight.

On the play of Gianluca Busio…

When he came into the locker room after the game, I said to him, ‘I can’t say enough about your effort tonight.’ Everybody always looks at the goals and the assists, but the work that he put into the game and understanding what I asked him to do. He did it for almost 120 minutes. The kid is something special. I’m happy for him because he works really hard and he deserves to make the kind of contribution he did tonight. He’s an excellent player and I really appreciate the way he goes about his business every day. I really do.

On the emotions at the end of regulation…

Them scoring the goal, kick off, whistle blows. The game is done and now we’ve got to go into overtime. I was concerned at that moment that they had the momentum from an emotional perspective. I could tell that our guys were down. They were upset. I had to do everything I could to kind of change that going into the first overtime. They got on with it really quickly. I thought that we managed the two overtimes really well. Some of it has to do with the fact that we have some real leaders on the team and also some of it has to do with the fact that I think a lot of our young guys that were out on the field realize that this is their opportunity. They’re not going to think that they have a lot of these in the future. They’re dealing with the present. I commend them for that.

Sporting Kansas City forward Gianluca Busio

On his first experience in the postseason and his stoppage time goal…

It was a pretty special experience from the start. My first playoff game, I was excited for it but a little nervous. When the game got going, I was treating it as another game and scoring and getting an assist is big for me because I want to impact the game. Every game I want to do that. To get one like that in those circumstances was pretty special and I’m going to remember this moment, but I just want to move forward and win the next couple games.

On the team’s ability to bounce back…

It’s easy for teams to put their heads down after you give up a late goal after you just scored but I think this team is built for the playoffs. We have a good strong mindset, and everybody knew that we gave up a goal and it’s pretty bad, but we have 30 more minutes and penalty kicks eventually to win this game. That’s what happened and everybody stepped up confidently, put them in and we have the best goalie in the league so that made it pretty easy for us.

On Tim Melia’s impact…

It’s unreal. I’ve watched a lot of soccer and even played a lot of FIFA and I’ve never seen anything like that. To make three saves in a row is just unreal. The guy’s amazing at them and I can’t even score on him in practice, so it makes it a lot easier on the takers when you have a goalkeeper like Tim to save the penalties.

On his progress over the course of the 2020 season…

I feel like this year has been difficult for everyone and it was hard for all of us. With the MLS is Back Tournament, that was a tough experience for everybody to get back in fitness. For me, playing the six and pretty much everywhere this year has developed me more as a player and a person just learning how to improve and how to help the team in any way. I feel like I’ve learned a lot this year and matured a lot this year and it’s starting to show with more goals and assists and hopefully I can continue to do that. Peter [Vermes] has been a great mentor and coach to me and he’s been excellent in trusting me. He believes in me so that gives a player a ton of confidence. He makes it a lot easier for me to just focus on the game.

Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Tim Melia

On the emotions toward end of match…

It was difficult. At that point, you think the game is in the bag and then all of a sudden we’re not as clean as we should be defensively and now we’re in two 15-minute overtimes. Saying that, I think the effort from the team in the sense that we tied, we were down, we tied, and just the emotions of getting scored on in these big games and then coming together in overtime and being very compact defensively, not giving anything away, doing what we need to to get through it is something that we can really build off of.

On the late drama surrounding himself and Chris Wondolowski, two of the most unlikely success stories in league history…

I think Wondo [Chris Wondolowski] shatters me by a landslide. What he’s done in this league is incredible and how he is as a person. He’s humble. He’s the hardest working guy even now at 37. I just told him after the game that I hope he keeps going. Scoring that big time goal in a game, that’s not the year to end on. He has the quality to keep going. He has the engine to keep going and that’s a character you want in your locker room, so I hope he continues.

On his approach to penalty shootouts…

No secrets to speak of. It’s a collective effort from everyone with a million different variables going into it and then just trying to execute it in the moment.

Preparation for penalty kicks and impressing Peter Vermes…

Any time you can impress Peter [Vermes], that’s a good thing because it doesn’t happen very often. It should be less about me and more about the fact that our guys stepped up in a big-time moment and hit three very good penalties. I understand I made the saves and they’re going to talk about that, but the quality of our shooters is special. As a goalkeeper, you just tell yourself when you have the talent that you do, you just have to make one save and the guys are going to do the job for you and all three of them made it.

On how good he’s been in penalty situations…

I just want to advance. If I save all of them or if I save zero and we advance, the focal point is we want to advance and we just want to do well for our club and for ourselves and for our families. The individual effort isn’t as important to me as the collective effort and accomplishing goals we set out at the beginning of the year.

On the mental aspect of the position…

I don’t know how much of a mental game it is. I don’t think people—especially field players—spend a whole lot of time studying goalkeepers. The percentage of penalty saves is so small that if they hit a really good penalty more than likely it’s not going to be saved. So, I don’t think that shooters think about the goalkeeper, but I could be wrong.

On stopping three straight shots in a penalty shootout…

I don’t remember if it was the first three, but I was in an Open Cup game with Charleston [Battery] against the Chicago Fire and it might have been three or four. I didn’t save all three. I think one person hit the crossbar, but either three or four has happened (in my career) before.

San Jose Earthquakes head coach Matias Almeyda

On tonight's performance and concluding the 2020 season...

I'd like to congratulate Sporting Kansas City for making it through. What I told the players is what I feel: I felt like we gave our last drop of sweat until the last second. It was a positive year. We competed in two tournaments and in both of them we competed. For moments it seemed like San Jose was dead, but we came back. Today, we played against the first-place team in the conference. Throughout 120 minutes we played an excellent match. Football has these things in penalties; sometimes it serves in your favor and sometimes against you because of virtue from the opponent. In this case, with their goalkeeper. But I thank the players, the two years that I've had with them, and I thank them for the difficult year spent that was hard for every human. I feel like I have brought the best out of them and they've made me become a better coach.

On tying in the game in stoppage time...

I felt calm. When the team you coach is producing chances in front of their goalkeeper when building up a play, we knew the tie was coming. We bounced back fast after conceding the first goal, the second goal, and we never stopped battling even after the third goal when there was only five minutes left. That's the love that I asked the players of, the passion of never giving up. To sweat until the last play. So, I can't be any more grateful towards all of them.

On what he'll remember about this team...

First of all, I will remember the change in football in each and every one of them. For the first time in my football career, I had never gone through such difficult moments like the ones we had. I take that as a huge lesson. I will remember every training session and every time we prepared for a game. I will remember their intelligence. No doubt that I'll remember this year as a tragic one for the world. I am grateful for the league and for being able to coach and do what I love during a global pandemic.

On Shea Salinas and Chris Wondolowski...

I enjoyed watching growth from the youngsters and I really enjoyed watching the veterans with a desire to keep growing, with excellent willingness, excellent delivery, and the path that we were looking to do in our sporting family. They've given their experience and other important things just like all of the other players. In the coming and going of players and coaches throughout my career, it is important to leave a human aspect that is superior by a large margin than the football part. I think we have achieved that thanks to them.

San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski

On his reaction to the emotions of the game...

Spent. I think that's the best emotion to describe it right now. We all left it out there for 120 minutes, and to be honest, I think both teams did. I think it was one of the cleanest and most physical playoff games. I thought both teams came to tackle but still out there playing the game. We're connecting passes. Do I wish we won? Yes, absolutely. I think that we did a lot of correct things and things that we're proud of, but in the long run, we didn't do enough.

On his first time playing in front of fans since March...

It was reinvigorating. I know that these rules are in place, and I appreciate it because it's been a necessity during this pandemic. Again, I think that it's a necessity and something that we absolutely need to have. That being said, I think it was only a third full, half full I'm not sure the exact numbers, but it was amazing just to hear a crowd, hear an atmosphere. It motivates you. You can't help it. It's that extra drive, extra energy. To be honest, for myself, it doesn't matter if you're rooting for me or against me. I love a good atmosphere. I think that it just kind of hypes you up a little more.

On telling SKC head coach Peter Vermes he would return in 2021...

I did talk to Peter [Vermes]. He asked if I was done. I don't think I'm done. You know I love it. I can't get enough of it. I have a passion. It's in me. It's in my blood. I want to continue to play. I don't have anything in mind yet. I haven't discussed any numbers, and I never want to be a burden on the Quakes. I want to make sure to see all the options, see what's out there. I think the Quakes are doing some amazing things, and I want to make sure that there are pieces that can be moved to continue to make this team grow, continue to be better. That's kind of my long-winded story right now. Yeah, I would love to play next year. That being said, there is absolutely nothing. I haven't even discussed it to be honest. I've never discussed a number even with Jesse [Fioranelli]. I know that the door is open, but I was fully committed to putting everything I have into this year, and I did. Now I need to re-evaluate. I just want to re-evaluate everything: my personal life, my life where I want to be, and also where the club is to see the direction that it's going.

San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Shea Salinas

On his reaction to the game...

Yeah, it was wild. For me, it was an extremely emotional game just not knowing how many more of these opportunities I'm going to have. To be 2-2 when I was subbed off, I was excited for Cade [Cowell] because I know he can make a difference, but it was also really difficult because I now didn't have control. It was emotional, but for us to fight back, the cross from Cristian [Espinoza], and the goal from Wondo [Chris Wondolowski] there at the end was just insane. My heart still hurts a little bit from the game, but it was an awesome experience.

On his opinions of the team and its future...

Man, we have so much character, this team. The season we've had, what we've gone through, and then this game, you're right, encompassed a lot of what happened this season: to go down a goal, then go up a goal, and then down another goal then to end with the PKs. I think this team has a ton of character. We grew a lot as players individually. I think every player is better now than they were at the beginning of the season, and I think we're also better men. We support each other. We encourage each other. We've developed something more than just becoming better soccer players, which has been cool. I want to continue growing. I want to continue to see this team grow and this group grow. I want to achieve more.

On his experience of playing in this game and how he'd describe it...

It was intense. It was an intense game. I think there were a lot of fouls, a lot of stoppages. Man, I honestly thought when we were up 2-1 we were going to go win 4-1, but they came out and scored another quick corner kick goal. What I loved about our team is that we stayed composed, and we kept with our game plan. We kept possession. We went side-to-side. Even in the 95th minute, or whatever it was, we were still passing the ball around, found Cristian [Espinoza] wide who got a cross off for Wondo [Chris Wondolowski] to score. It was incredible composure and ability to stick to a game plan. It was a classic. It was intense. It's something I'll never forget. It's a lot like the Open Cup game we had here a few years ago where we lost in penalties as well. Just a game I'll never forget.

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