Peter Vermes has been coaching long enough to know when he has been handed a gift.
Vermes and his Sporting KC players did not take kindly to Vancouver interim coach Vanni Sartini's statement, made in the glow of the Whitecaps' qualification for the MLS playoffs on Decision Day, that they'd beat Sporting KC in their first playoff game since 2017.
Sartini quickly qualified his remarks just a bit, saying that Vancouver would face a difficult task on the road, but he added that “hard doesn’t mean impossible.”
"It's easy when I don't have to do my job," said Vermes after Saturday's 3-1 win moved Sporting KC into the Western Conference semifinals. "I don't have to provide external motivation for the team when somebody else does it for me. I really appreciate it. That was an excellent decision on their part."
Vermes said his players took Sartini's comments as a challenge:
“If there's two things that I know, one is the intensity of the playoffs are just a different animal. That's one and the other is that you have to be very careful about challenging the pride and the respect of another group of people, especially when you're competing against them. When you provide external motivation to a group of guys that are pretty proud and are really professional about what they do every day, and they're extremely humble and committed to what they do and have a lot of respect for the opponent, it changes things really quickly.”
Khiry Shelton, Nicolas Isimat-Mirin and Graham Zusi scored to move Sporting KC into the conference semifinals against Seattle or Real Salt Lake next Sunday.
The best goal of the bunch was Zusi's 30-yard blast into the top left corner for his first career playoff goal.
Afterwards, the colorful Sartini said he didn't regret his remarks made after he was told that the 'Caps would be playing Sporting KC.
"I'm not right every time," he said, "but I would say it again because we were so excited and that excitement pushed us and makes something that was inconceivable."
Nov. 20 in Kansas City, Kansas
Sporting KC 3 Vancouver 1. Goals: Shelton (Zusi, Salloi) 17, Isimat-Mirin 45+3, Zusi (Salloi) 58; Dajome pen. 39.
Sporting KC -- Melia; Zusi, Isimat-Mirin, Fontas, Martins; Sanchez, Walter, Kinda (Espinoza 87); Russell, Shelton, Salloi
Vancouver -- Crepeau; Jungwirth (Godoy 46), Rose, Nerwinski (Brown 73); Gaspar, Teibert, Owusu (Cavallini 73), Godinho (Caicedo 65); Gauld; White, Dajome.
Photo by Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire
No problem wiht Suzi's goal but the defender oddly stood to the side and let him take it. Pathetic defending permitted the opportunity.