Mon, 18 Jan 2021

Top-seeded Sporting KC aim to fend off Earthquakes

Field Level Media
22 Nov 2020, 07:55 GMT+10

Sporting Kansas City had the biggest one-season improvement in MLS history in 2020, when they went from 11th place in 2019 to the top spot in the Western Conference.

But that's old news, according to Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes.

"Not a heckuva lot, honestly," Vermes said, when asked about what it means for this Sunday's home game against the eighth-seeded San Jose Earthquakes.

"Obviously getting home-field advantage is an important aspect in any sport when it comes to the playoffs. But at the same time, when you're playing a knock-out, elimination like we are, it winds up being a final for both teams.

"It's nice to be home; you don't have to travel. It's a feel good that we did well this year, but it means nothing going into the postseason, other than home-field advantage."

With the new playoff format in 2020, the first round is a one-game series. So Vermes has to hope his team is ready.

After surviving a season of injuries and missed games because of COVID-19, there are only three players unavailable because of injury: defenders Matt Besler and Graham Zusi as well as midfielder Felipe Gutierrez.

San Jose may be playing with house money, considering few believe the Earthquakes have much of a chance against Sporting KC. But San Jose head coach Matias Almeyda isn't backing down from the challenge.

"My big thing is 'Believe it,'" he said. "You can do this. It takes a little bit of Lady Luck along the way, which we've all had. But anybody who's won anything can go to a moment, accept it, take it and play your best, play on and who knows what can happen.

"We've done it before; we can do it again."

The two clubs did not play during the 2020 season. They split a pair of games in 2019, with each side winning on its home field.

--Field Level Media

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