The past season has certainly been one of the most memorable years in Major League Soccer history, with drama on and off the field, spectacular races for the Conference titles, top individual performances and a magnificent MLS Cup to round it all off.
Over the next few days at PST we’re putting a nice bow on an incredible 2013 MLS season, to mark the end of a landmark year for soccer in North America.
By the time the season was over, we were asking whether he deserved to be mentioned with Dominic Kinnear and Jason Kreis as potential U.S. Men’s National Team bosses. At the beginning of the year, however, Peter Vermes as the guy who’d lost in two straight playoffs to Kinnear’s Houston Dynamo. He was the guy who’d tried to shoehorn Bobby Convey into 2012’s starting lineup. He was the guy who’s engineered a high energy but also highly physical Sporting Kansas City style.
Perhaps those big, stylistic talking points overshadowed the tweaks Vermes had to make to his 2013 team – changes he oversaw while wearing his technical director’s hat for the club. He had to replace Roger Espinoza, the energetic central midfielder that did so much of the dirty work in the middle. He also had to get young Oriol Rosell to step into Julio Cesar’s defensive midfield role, while Kei Kamara’s presence up top would make its way to Middlesbrough in the middle of the season.
Despite Graham Zusi and Matt Besler missing major time with U.S. Men’s National Team duty, Vermes still had his side competing for the Supporters’ Shield through the final weekend, and while Sporting wasn’t able claim that trophy, they were able to seize the one everybody wants most. With their shootout win over Real Salt Lake in Dec. 7’s MLS Cup, Vermes brought a second championship to Kansas City, becoming the first person to win the title with the same organization as both a player and coach.
Along the way, Vermes challenged some of the critiques that had taken hold since he replaced Curt Onalfo on the sidelines four years ago. The Bobby Convey whiff of 2012 gave way to the Benny Feilhaber project in 2013. A side once defined by its physicality developed other ways to win. And in the playoffs, Vermes finally got the best of Dom Kinnear.
Three weeks isn’t enough time to assess the legacy of a playoff run, but for the former U.S. international, a title has challenged us to see the positives rather than focus on why Sporting had come up short. And once our perceptions changed, it became clear Vermes was a strength, perhaps unsung all along.