Vermes says match vs. RSL is biggest challenge

KC manager says defending champs play the best soccer in MLS

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Peter Vermes doesn’t normally talk much
about the Wizards' upcoming opponents, let alone praise them.

Vermes usually prefers to discuss his own team. But on Thursday, Kansas City’s
manager took time out to commend defending MLS Cup champions Real Salt Lake, the Wizards' opponents on
Saturday at CommunityAmerica Ballpark.

“As a team, we feel that right now they are playing the best soccer in the
league,” Vermes said.

That’s certainly not an
exaggeration, either. The numbers and results back
him up.

After starting the season slowly in
defense of their 2009 MLS Cup championship campaign, RSL have gradually emerged as the most dangerous team in the league. They lead MLS in goals with 32 and
have lost just once in their 10 games, outscoring opponents 17-5 during
that period.

With that in mind, Vermes knows the
Wizards' rapidly improving back line will have to play one of its most complete
games of the season to shackle RSL's attack, which tore Kansas City apart
4-1 in Utah earlier this season.

“It’s going to be a major challenge
for us,” Vermes said, “probably our biggest test of the season so far. This is
going to be one where we are not just going to have to be concentrated, but we’re
going to have to make sure that we stick to our game plan from the very first
minute of the game all the way through the 90-plus minutes of injury time.”

That focus is especially important because Real Salt Lake’s production isn’t predictable.
Seven players have at least two goals this season, and only forward Alvaro Saborio has
more than four.

Three different RSL players—Saborio, Robbie Findley and Nelson Gonzalez—scored
last week in a 3-0 victory against D.C. United, something that hasn’t escaped
the attention of Vermes and his staff.

“They are a team that can break you
down in many different ways,” he said, “and we’ve got to be prepared for all of

The only real question for Kansas City is whether RSL will employ the flowing style
of play they have relied on all season or revert to the bunker-and-punt approach
they employed last season at CAB.

Vermes, who does not know if he can count on winger Ryan Smith (hamstring), said he was guessing Jason Kreis’ side would come to play. But either
way, the Wizards will focus on doing what they’ve done best for the past two
months: disrupting their opponents with pressure and an uncompromising style of

“They are feeling their game right
now,” Vermes said. “They have a connection and some continuity in the way
they’re playing, which they have been growing off since the start of the
season. We are going to have to get them out of that rhythm.”