That after his team was hammered at home 2-0 by Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday. The loss snapped New York’s 16 game home unbeaten streak.
Special? Maybe not. Unless you’re counting that choreographed celebration dance-off between Kei Kamara and CJ Sapong. That was special.
After falling flat at home last weekend against the Houston Dynamo, Sporting took to the road Wednesday for a huge Eastern Conference match-up against New York, who entered the contest just two points back of conference-leading SKC.
The game pitted the league’s best defense against the highest scoring team in the east, and the question going in was whether KC could slow down the likes of Thierry Henry, Kenny Cooper, Sebastian LeToux, Joel Lindpere and Tim Cahill.
Aside from the star power, the match also showcased- and certainly reinforced (not that he needed it)- KC manager Peter Vermes’ philosophy regarding the “right” way to play, and why a lot of other teams turn into pussies on the road.
Much has been said of late, by Vermes and several Sporting players, about the willingness of visiting teams to bunker in and slog up the game. Last week Vermes even called out the refs for allowing opponents to excessively waste time.
That wasn’t necessary this time out, because KC came out swinging and hit New York in the mouth, putting two goals on the board in the first 20 minutes. The first came courtesy of CJ Sapong after Graham Zusi finally cracked a nice shot off a set piece that smacked the crossbar before ending up at CJ’s right boot around the penalty spot. The second was just a classic Kei Kamara near post header off a corner.
“I think what happens a lot of times is, I don’t think it’s much of a secret, when we play at home everybody just sticks everything behind the ball and they do play for 90 minutes with basically trying to counter us,” Vermes said after the game. “It’s not a lot of space to play in; it’s just what it is. What happens when we come to other people’s places is they have to play because it’s their place and they have to drive the game a little bit so they can’t sit back. They have to open themselves up, and when they do we find opportunities and I think that’s one of the biggest reasons why.”
I don’t know about you, but I sense a little bit of vindication in Vermes on that one.
Almost like he was saying, “See? I told you that when teams play us straight up man-to-man and don’t play bunker ball on us they can’t hang.”
On this night, Vermes was certainly right.
New York struggled with KC’s pressure early, and though they got a bit better in the second half, never really created anything all that dangerous in front of goal. Credit that to the White Puma and the defensive back four, who played a great overall game. At one point I thought Kenny Cooper was going to cry he was being harassed so much, not only by the KC defense, but also by teammate Thierry Henry who didn’t waste any opportunities to chastise the big striker whenever he made a mistake.
There might be something else going on with this team, too. Something dare I say, mystic. It might not be all guts and work rate that’s kept KC at the top of the East as the regular season is winding down.
“That kind of African-Caribbean feelings we inject into all the players so we can relax and have fun,” revealed Kei in a jubilant visitors’ locker room. And one more thing: “We have Graham Zusi.”
Well, the cat’s out of the bag. Get a little African-Caribbean injection, throw in a little Zusi, a pinch of salt and a dash of Vermes red-ass. Dee-lish!
Next up is another huge away game at noon Saturday at Montreal, a team that has exceeded expectations this season and is still hanging around the playoff picture. The Canadians are sure to come out fired up, as it’s virtually a must-win for them to stay in contention.