Don’t take this the wrong way, Cauldronites, but sometimes Sporting Kansas City prefers to play on the road.
Mind you, that has nothing to do with the atmosphere.
Sporting KC loves you. The club also believes its stadium and its fans are the best in MLS and provide a distinct edge every home match.
But opposing teams also know that is the case, so upon entering Livestrong Sporting Park, there is a tendency for other teams to hunker down, effectively boarding up the windows and closing for business like a coastal town preparing for a hurricane’s landfall.
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“People who come here usually sit back and pack it in,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said. “The game this past weekend, I credited D.C. (United) in the press conference after the game for coming in to play. They didn’t just pack everything in behind the ball.”
Of course, all that changes on the road, where the home team generally feels an obligation to drive the game and entertain the crowd.
“A lot of times when we go away, those teams have to play and open up a little bit,” Vermes said. “It’s a game. You see a lot of times when we play against teams who want to play, it winds up being a good game, and we do well in those situations.”
Sporting KC (13-7-4) has been vulnerable to the counterattack at home with its high-pressing style. The Chicago Fire even stung Vermes’ side with a 1-0 loss by playing tight and very selectively picking a moment.
But on the road, Sporting KC tends to think defense-first more.
“Usually, we drop a little more and let the other team make the game (on the road), which sometimes I think that’s our best defense,” centerback Aurelien Collin said. “We’re very compact and don’t give the other team space to make passes. That is our best strategy.”
The results bear that out.
“We never think about the next game or the game after,” Collin said. “All that matters is the next game. We’re much happier when the game is at home, because we have the best fans in the league. But when we go on the road, we go there to get points.”
For the first time since early June, Sporting KC has a full week between games
“We are very relaxed,” Collin said. “We had a few days off after the win against D.C. We’re confident and cool heading to Toronto.”
The three players who went away for international duty — defender Matt Besler and midfielders Graham Zusi and Roger Espinoza — joined Sporting KC in Toronto and should be available for the match.
That is excellent news given the club’s injury issues.
Forward Jacob Peterson won’t be back anytime soon.
“He has about a two-week period left where we’re still trying to rehab him, and we’ll see where he is at that point,” Vermes said.
Neither, it seems, will fellow winder Bobby Convey.
“Bobby’s still struggling with his hammy, so we’ll have to continue monitoring that,” Vermes said. “It’s just unfortunate, because I know how much he wants to be back with the team and how much we want him with the team. But until he’s ready, we can’t rush it, because we still have a lot of season left.”
Midfielder Peterson Joseph, who also has a hamstring strain, also remains doubtful.
But the news isn’t all grim.
Centerback Aurelien Collin returned last week in the win against D.C. United. He didn’t have any setbacks, and defensive midfielder Lawrence Olum trained all week as well.
Finally, Seth Sinovic, who missed a match with a sprained ankle, ought to be available.