Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes says he’s ‘not surprised’ by dramatic turnaround

Jay Biggerstaff/USA TODAY Sports

An hourlong weather delay didn’t affect Sporting KC on Wednesday night. The club picked up where it left off on Sunday, beating FC Dallas 2-1 behind goals from Daniel Salloi and Gadi Kinda.

After going winless through 10 matches, the club has posted a record of 4-1-1 in its last six. With an overall record of 4-4-8, KC sits in 11th place in the Western Conference and just two points out of a playoff spot.

Sporting earned the second most points in the league (13) in the month of May. And after scoring the fewest amount of goals to start a season in MLS history — through 10 matches — their 12 goals in the month of May were second best in the league behind Atlanta’s 13.

“I said the from the beginning I believe in the group and it was about getting all the players back,” manager Peter Vermes said of the turnaround. “I’m not surprised.

“I know that maybe some are, but like I said, I believed in the team. And I knew that once we got all of our players back, it would give us a good rotation to use players in different situations like tonight.”

The victory marked Sporting KC’s first win at home against FC Dallas in MLS play since 2017. They had defeated Dallas three times in the U.S. Open Cup since then.

Sporting had been exploiting the right side of Dallas’ back line for most of the first half, and they finally capitalized in the 41st minute. Salloi and Logan Ndenbe combined down Sporting’s left-hand side to put Salloi in behind the Dallas back line. His low, driven cross through the goalmouth found the run of Kinda at the back post to make it 1-0.

While they wouldn’t say it explicitly, it seemed like Sporting players made it a point to attack FC Dallas’ right back Collin Smith. The 19-year-old was making his professional debut.

“I think we did a good job of switching up between me staying wide or (Ndenbe) being wide, and whoever is making the run behind or getting those one-twos,” Salloi said, “and it seemed to be working very well.”

Vermes said he felt like the team got away from that strategy at times in the first half, so he told players at halftime to “keep going back to the well.”

That they did.

Salloi then continued his red-hot form, scoring his third goal in Sporting’s last five matches to double the lead at the hour mark. He picked up a pass from Kinda on the left flank, cut inside and unleashed a shot into the bottom corner.

An injury to Graham Zusi, who subbed on for the starter at right back, Jake Davis, led to an unlikely figure playing in that spot: Khiry Shelton. Vermes praised the forward’s contributions there, while Shelton said it was the first time he’s played on the back line since he was five years old.

“I’m a lover of this game and it was a challenge,” Shelton said. “But I tend to close out games, and anyway I can, I want to be there to help the team.”

FC Dallas got one back late after Jesus Ferreira scored on the stroke of the 90th minute, but that was all the scoring for the evening.

Sporting KC now travels north of the border to take on the Vancouver Whitecaps at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday night.