The concern was the emotional component more than the physical one. How quickly could Sporting Kansas City turn its attention from a U.S. Open Cup title back to the MLS regular season?
To help the cause, coach Peter Vermes felt compelled to mention its importance only minutes after lifting the trophy. Then he did so again two days before Sunday’s game against the LA Galaxy.
The worry evaporated quickly after the opening whistle.
Sporting KC overwhelmed the Galaxy with a pair of early goals, the precursor to a 2-1 victory in front of a crowd of 19,028 at Children’s Mercy Park.
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“You could tell they knew we achieved one of the goals that we wanted to achieve, (but) that’s behind us, and it’s time to move on,” Vermes said, adding, “The mentality of the guys on Friday, I could already see it and feel it a little bit. … We were definitely on top of it.”
Moving closer to the top of the standings, too.
Sporting KC, 12-6-11, climbed into second place in the Western Conference, one point shy of league-leading Vancouver. The two teams will meet next weekend in Kansas City, Kan., with five games left on the regular-season schedule.
Sporting KC has not lost at home in its last 24 MLS matches, the third longest streak in league history.
Daniel Salloi and Diego Rubio provided the first-half goals. LA Galaxy midfielder Romain Alessandrini halved the lead on a free kick in the second half.
Neither Salloi nor Rubio were starters when the year began. Salloi had never appeared in an MLS match. Rubio was still recovering from knee surgery last October.
Their roles have steadily increased over the last several weeks. Salloi’s play demanded more time. Rubio’s play allowed the club to trade Dom Dwyer to Orlando City SC in July.
Rubio has scored five goals in seven MLS starts this year. Dwyer scored five goals in 14 MLS starts before being moved to Orlando.
“There are (30) players on the roster, and everyone can play,” Rubio said. “I think you see that on Wednesday, three different guys played (forward), and today another three guys. But we always score. We’re winning the last few games. I think that speaks (well) about the team.”
Salloi has scored in back-to-back matches — the first two games his Hungarian family has seen him play in Kansas City. On Sunday, he received a pass from Rubio on a run in the box, then poked the ball past LA Galaxy goalkeeper Clement Diop.
“Sporting said they’re getting green cards for my family because they’re a good (luck) charm,” Salloi said.
Salloi was heavily involved in the game plan Sunday. Sporting KC exploited the right side of the Galaxy back line during a dominant first half, which featured national team player Gyasi Zardes playing as a right back for the first time in his MLS career.
“I believe we have a lot of quality in the players up front that can finish chances,” Vermes said. “It all comes because of the movement. From that perspective, I’m very pleased.”
Sporting KC captain Matt Besler left the match in second-half stoppage time after receiving an elbow to his head, opening a wound above his right eye. He received stitches after the match but said he was otherwise fine.