Sporting KC back up their promises of playoff chase with winning streak

After losing 1-0 to Orlando City on Aug. 14, it looked like Sporting Kansas City’s run as a perennial Audi MLS Cup Playoffs qualifier could end in 2019 as they slid further down the Western Conference table.

But since then, they’ve racked up three straight wins, the latest a 1-0 nail-biter over the Houston Dynamo on Saturday at Children’s Mercy Park.

Taking shutouts in two straight wins, Sporting head coach Peter Vermes credited his team’s tenacity to get results when they most needed it.

“Very organized, concentrated knowing that we need to buckle down and not give anything away and I think we were pretty good at that tonight,” Vermes said in the postgame interview on the local broadcast. “I think we deserved the win for sure.”

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Sporting started the season in stellar form, emphatically beating Liga MX side Toluca in the Concacaf Champions League to begin 2019 with a bang. But the early-year exertions, combined with a number of significant injuries, led to uncharacteristically inconsistent form for Sporting, and the current three-game winning streak is their very first such streak of the year in league play.

While they never gave up the chase for the postseason, winger Johnny Russell, who scored the winner on Saturday, admitted they had to back up their promises with results, and they’ve been doing it lately.

“I said a few weeks back we’re not going to give up without a fight and I think we’re showing that. We’ve let everyone down for so long this season the way we’ve played, we’re showing everyone we want to be here, we want to win. I think the last few weeks, the results have shown that,” Russell said.

Goalkeeper Tim Melia agreed, saying the pieces were in place for the team to make a late rally.

“The big difference is we have more confidence,” he said. “There was never a doubt if we were good or if the team was talented, but right now we’re in a good mind space and we need to keep going because we need to win quite a few more games to get to the playoffs.”

Even with three wins in a row, Sporting still need to make up ground in the Western Conference. They’re currently in 9th place, five points below the playoff line, and the four teams directly above them in the standings each have a game in hand on Kansas City.

Vermes believes his side is putting it together now on both sides of the ball, and the fight is not yet over.

“We’ve been very disciplined for sure defensively and we’ve stepped it up a notch, because we have a team that can attack with a lot of weapons and we’re starting to do that,” he said.

Melia agreed.

“We still have a long way to go but we’re on the right track. We’re winning at home, we’re being really difficult to break down, and now we have a really difficult, really important task coming up against Portland,” he said.

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