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Update - Sporting KC’s last 10: A possible Path to Glory. And Redemption?

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3-1-0 a great start. But work still to be done.

MLS: Sporting KC at San Jose Earthquakes Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Four weeks ago, Sporting Kansas City’s season fate, despite having put themselves in a good position, lied in their ability to overturn a fateful four-year history of failure in the last 10 games of the season.

With six matches remaining, there is no “x” next to Sporting Kansas City on the “Standings” page at mlssoccer.com denoting Kansas City has clinched a berth in the MLS playoffs. Their magic number is six. But Sporting KC would rather have a “y” denoting a clinch of the top spot in the West and home-field advantage through the conference finals, the scenario that last led them to the MLS Cup Championship in 2013.

Four games on, that salivating possibility is more likely as Peter Vermes’ charges have won three of four to regain first in the West on 51 points, one more than FC Dallas and four more than LAFC and Portland Timbers. The last six – call it A Path to Glory. Yet, veteran Sporting Kansas City players holding the history of four away knockout losses in four years in the back of their mind might call it – A Road to Redemption.

In the article linked above, The Blue Testament gauged that 57 points would be enough for Sporting Kansas City to grab at least second place in the West for not only home-field advantage in the conference semi-finals, but also the restorative knockout-round bye that goes with it. However, conference-wide, points are pushing higher than past seasons. Using each contending team’s points per game thus far, the following chart plots each team’s finish:

Last Six Projection

Team, current pts. Pts per game x 6 games finish Points projected Current Wins* SOS**
Team, current pts. Pts per game x 6 games finish Points projected Current Wins* SOS**
Sporting KC, 51 1.82 10.92 62 15 1.45
FC Dallas, 50 1.79 10.74 61 14 1.51
LAFC, 47 1.68 10.08 57 13 1.16
Seattle Sounders, 44 1.57 9.42 54 13 1.04
* Wins are first tie-breaker
**Strength of remaining schedule

(Strength of Schedule analysis provided by mlssoccer.com.)

Thus, at least 59 points may be necessary for a second-place finish. Consequently, Sporting Kansas City will likely need eight more points – or a record of 2-2-2 – in their last six matches. Three of those are away, including this Sunday’s match at Philadelphia Union, with remaining travels to Vancouver Whitecaps and contenders FC Dallas. Three then are at home: Real Salt Lake, LA Galaxy, and contenders LAFC.

“What we are focused on, first and foremost, is making the playoffs. Second thing is to try and accumulate as many points as we possibly can to be as high up the table as we can for both the West and the East. If you go down to the end, you want to be in the position to have home-field advantage in all the scenarios,” stated Vermes. “We have a lot of [teams] in front of us (Atlanta United and New York Red Bulls at 60 and 56 points respectively) still and the thing is bunched together. Every point counts. If we do our job, we don’t have to worry about [other team’s results].”

That secondary goal will require stalwart results, which, with the way Sporting Kansas City is playing, are possible. But so many things have to go right. Depending on who you ask, the keys for being successful down the stretch vary.

“We had a difficult time, like four games in a row. In that time, it’s important that you have the leadership to keep everybody on the same page, and no one panicking because of the results. That has been happening here in this club,” said left winger Gerso Fernandes. “We had a tough time, but we got together and said, ‘We know we are better than this. We will get it back.’ It’s leadership and having people who can understand that if we all work to the same goal, we will accomplish it.”

Michael Bradley of defending MLS Champs Toronto FC may be the “Philosopher of Football”, but Gerso’s thoughts are reminiscent of Confucious, the Chinese “Great Sage”, “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

Having been through relegation and promotion battles, as well as FA Cup and other tournaments, Scotsman Johnny Russell knows what it takes at crunch time. He breaks it down individually and collectively and sprinkles it with that sometimes femme fatale named fate.

“You need to look after yourself physically and mentally. We continue to do that. The work that we have been doing has got us in this position. We’re here for a reason; we’ve been consistent. So there’s no need to go away from what we’ve already been doing,” he stated. “You need a bit of luck sometimes as well. My first year in England, we played the playoff final. And it was one of the most dominant games I’ve ever been involved in, and we lost it in the last minute. It’s a cruel game.”

Vermes – ever standing by Sporting’s core values of team first, high work ethic, intelligence, and pursuing excellence every day – concurs. But adds, “The other is that you have to maintain your hunger, your focus, and understand that every single point has real meaning. That’s big.”

And those core values are virtuous. And they reflect Roman philosopher Cicero’s thoughts, “Glory follows virtue as if it were its shadow.”

It is a not a virtual guarantee, but a solid one that Vermes will keep his team focused.

“We always focus on our goals. And Peter is one of the best,” said Gerso. “He knows what the team needs, and he doesn’t let the team lose focus on our goals.”

Glory. It’s there for Sporting Kansas City.

“When you are top, everyone’s gunning for you… When you know how hard it was to get back there, that hard work continues…,” said Russell. “There are still six games left; six opportunities for us to keep ourselves there.”

Redemption. It’s there for Sporting Kansas City.