The game may not have started well for Daniel Salloi and Sporting Kansas City, but it sure ended on a high note.
Sporting KC defeated the Vancouver Whitecaps 4-1 in a huge road win that keeps hopes of a first-round bye alive for at least another week.
Sporting KC entered Wednesday’s match in 4th in the West after a Seattle victory earlier in the day. After four straight years of knockout round exits on the road, Sporting fans began to fear ahead of the game that the worst case scenario may become a reality: a late season collapse sending SKC on the road for the fifth straight year.
The first half of the game did nothing to quell the fears of Kansas City fans. SKC looked disorganized and complacent for the first 45 minutes, culminating in a Vancouver goal just before the halftime whistle that Peter Vermes was less than thrilled with.
“We gave a silly goal away, it was a silly goal on our part,” Vermes said. “I just told the guys at halftime, there was no tactics, it was more of ‘look, you have to have the desire in this game, you have to have the intensity’, and it was different in the second half.”
To say it was different in the second half is an understatement. After a barrage of four goals from three different players in the second half, Sporting KC suddenly looked like one of the top teams in the West once again.
“We had the desire and intensity,” Vermes continued. “I think it overwhelmed them and put them under pressure. When we scored the first one the momentum came with us and it changed the game.”
The importance of taking the full three from this game points cannot be understated for Sporting KC. The win pushes SKC up to 2nd place in the West—albeit level with LAFC on points—ahead of a brutal final two-game stretch against 1st place FC Dallas and 3rd place LAFC.
“We really want that home playoff game, even if it’s in the knockout round,” said forward Daniel Salloi. “But the best thing we can do is earn the most points and avoid the knockout round. I think this win is a huge step toward that.”
The good news for SKC is that it controls its own destiny in the Western Conference. If Sporting can find a way to win it’s final two games, it wins the West. That’s easier said than done, though, as KC prepares to travel to Toyota Park on Sunday. FC Dallas has lost just once this year in Frisco, earning a 10-1-5 (W-L-D) home record in 2018.
If Sporting KC isn’t able to get a result against FC Dallas, a home victory against LAFC on Decision Day would just about confirm a 2nd place finish. Even if LAFC defeats Vancouver on Saturday, the expansion side would have to make up its current four-goal differential to break a potential tie with Sporting KC should they finish level on points.
But for now, Sporting KC turns its attention to FC Dallas. SKC beat Dallas 3-2 earlier in the year in the U.S. Open Cup, but lost by the same score at Children’s Mercy Park in MLS play.
“These were massive three points for us,” Vermes said. “We know now that we have to go onto the next one and play the best team in the West, and that’s FC Dallas. It’s going to be a really difficult match for us, but we’re up for the challenge.”