A penalty shootout decided the Western Conference Wild Card clash, as Sporting Kansas City narrowly edged San Jose Earthquakes after zero goals scored in regulation.
Despite the winless run early on in the season and the number of injuries that struck the team, Vermes righted the ship and helped return SKC to playoffs after missing out in 2022.
Even after the team failed to win any of their first 10 MLS contests, the supporters’ faith never wavered, and they were rewarded with a home playoff win at Children’s Mercy Park. The fans had a clear impact on the outcome of the game, as they aided Kansas City in the shootout behind goalkeeper Tim Melia and saw San Jose’s Jackson Yueill sky his attempt over the bar.
“I commend our crowd…our crowd was really good,” Vermes said after the game. “They were loud as could be, especially when [San Jose] were shooting [during the penalty shootout] and making them know it. That was really important, as well. It was good.”
Vermes explained that even though his team are moving on the next round, he would’ve liked to see them come out of the gates with more intent, especially in front of the home crowd.
“That was a really tough game for us tonight,” he said. “I think to start the game we looked a little sluggish. I think the positive is that our guys found a way. I also think because of the new rules with the penalty kicks, I actually think that this was really good experience for us to actually go through this because now with the three-game series, you have to do penalties.
“To have gone through it already is good for our guys, for sure. But it was a very tough game. At the end of the day, we found a way. I keep going back to it. I think our guys have the ability to dig deep because they’ve been through a lot this season.”
Melia, who’s been with the club since 2014 and has over 250 appearances with SKC, came up clutch during the shootout with one save — against San Jose’s best player, Cristian Espinoza.
“I think Tim is the best I’ve ever been around, both player and coach, in regards to penalty kicks. He’s absolutely incredible,” Vermes said.
“You have got to have a good goalkeeper in the goal. You need it and you need him to come up big at big moments. He’s done that in a lot of these situations. That was huge for us.”
SKC’s supporters will have the chance to get behind their team once again at their home ground on on November 5 in game two against new rivals St Louis CITY, who clinched the number one seed in the Western Conference in their first season in MLS.
“We understand that we’re playing the best team in the conference at the moment and it’s going to be hard for us, especially with a short turnaround going into the weekend.”
But if you want to win something, you have got to play the best teams,” said Vermes. “And they’re the best right now. So we have got a big hurdle to get over but I think we’re up for the challenge from the perspective that we’re going to go and give everything we have.”
Game one between the two Missouri-based clubs is set for October 29 at CITYPARK in St Louis, Missouri,
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