Sporting Kansas City clinched a Wild Card playoff slot after a 3-1 victory over Minnesota United at Children’s Mercy Park on Decision Day, as goals from Johnny Russell and Remi Walter propelled the team to success.
Following a disappointing start to the 2023 Major League Soccer campaign defined by a 10-game winless streak, head coach Peter Vermes turned the season around to conclude in eighth place on the Western Conference table with 44 points and a record of 12W-8D-14L.
“I’m very, very proud of the guys, I’m very happy for them because they got rewarded for their commitment. And for the naysayers, the doubters, no problem. Keep doing it ‘cause we’ll keep fighting and clawing and making our way,” Vermes told reporters after the match.
Russell echoed the coach’s thoughts after the final whistle, emphasizing the importance of turning around the season.
“To be in a situation we were in, I don’t think there’s many other teams in this league who could start a season like that and turn it around the way we have,” Russell said. “…Let’s be honest, we haven’t done anything yet, but to make the playoffs is huge.”
The 2023 campaign saw Designated Players Alan Pulido and Erik Thommy return, providing the team with a much needed boost. Together, the two contributed 19 of the 48 goals scored by Sporting KC.
Now, the two figures will play a crucial role in the playoffs as Kansas City faces the San Jose Earthquakes in a knockout Wild Card match. And it won’t be easy for Vermes’ team, after losing 3-0 when visiting San Jose during the MLS regular season in April.
“A team that kicked our butt when we went to their place,” Vermes said. “… Tough opponent. But I think everybody we’re gonna face from here on out is gonna be that.”
The two will confront each other on October 25 at PayPal Park. The winner will then face St. Louis CITY in a best of three format.
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