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Sporting Kansas City’s new way; the team is more versatile today

Dec 4, 2013, 8:41 PM EDT

Sporting Kansas City v New York Red Bulls Getty Images

You will hear a lot over the coming days about Sporting Kansas City’s relentless, pressing ways, about how they apply high pressure all over the field for 90 minutes … a.k.a., the Sporting Kansas City way or the Peter Vermes way.

Only, it’s not true. Not exactly, anyway.

Yes, Vermes built the team platform in his first two full years in charge around a constant, relentless high pressing game, pinning the hapless opposition in its own half with that dogged brand. Watching KC set up in that 4-3-3 and bothering teams so, preventing them frequently from ever gaining a foothold in the midfield was rather fun to watch, eh?

And that still happens sometimes. Quite often at home, in fact.

But Vermes, pondering a couple of playoff ousters among some other hiccups, assessed that a partial change was needed. He wanted a Sporting Kansas City team that could come off the throttle at times, strategically.

“We have to be able to adapt and adjust,” Vermes told me earlier this year when I asked about seeing his team evolve, sometimes downshifting into a different style. “The league has changed a lot. A lot. It used to be that you would go in and play a team and everybody was basically the same. Whoever had more of the play that day, would win. Or somebody that worked a little harder that day would win. You have to have different ways you can play tactically.”

What Vermes wanted was a team that could adjust to different game situations.  What if the team goes a man down? What about games in Texas in the summer, where a high-press will wilt in the 60th minute? What about trying to protect a lead?

“It can’t be just run and gun all the time,” he said. “Because at some point something is going to affect you.”

Yes, you will see the team press Real Salt Lake high on Saturday, especially early. But if SKC takes a lead, Vermes’ team is capable of dropping off now, having done so effectively at various, appropriate times of the year.

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