The promise of a sloppy first leg was worth the reward of Saturday night's Eastern Conference Final at Sporting Park. Sporting Kansas City overcame an early Houston Dynamo goal to net two for themselves, onward to the Dec. 7 Major League Soccer Cup that's now set to be held in Kansas City.
Sporting Park was electric hours before kickoff. Attendance was a stadium best at 21,650 despite temperatures dipping down into the low teens. Chants of "We want the cup" filled the member's stand on a night where scarves were for more than just team pride.
Indeed, there seemed to be a confidence echoing about Sporting Park from both the fans and Sporting Kansas City players - a vibe that this year was going to be a different outcome than the two previous playoff losses to the Dynamo.
However, only three minutes into the match, the Dynamo struck with a callous goal that quickly put 2011 and 2012 into the minds of all in attendance.
"I think we showed some real maturity," Vermes said after the match. "Three years ago I think we were very new to this when we played them in this same situation. We were very new in everything. I even think our fans were new to it.
"There's a lot of apprehension that year. This year I think was completely different. Our players understand the task at hand. Even though they scored early, we never panicked. We do what we always try to do, and that is to get even or ahead at halftime and we did it."
Sporting Kansas City did it with a thrilling goal off the boot of forward CJ Sapong in the 14th minute. A poor clearance attempt from Houston defender Bobby Boswell gifted the ball to Sapong who wasted no time slicing a right-footed shot to the left of goalkeeper Tally Hall and into the back of the net.
At that moment, history seemed to be in favor of Sporting Kansas City, entering the contest 16-0-2 when Sapong scores.
"When he's making the kind of runs he was making tonight in the box, it's the reason why he can get on the end of stuff and score," Vermes said. "When he's busy like that, he's dangerous."
However, it was still an ongoing battle of if and when for a home side, go-ahead goal.
Both would be answered in the 63rd minute, though, when forward Dom Dwyer put Sporting Kansas City ahead for good off a beautiful chip from midfielder Benny Feilhaber. Dwyer received the pass, took a one-touch dribble past defender Kofi Sarkodie, and slotted home the history-making goal for Sporting Kansas City.
The noise at Sporting Park failed to cease from that moment forward as each and every pass played out in full tension.
But after four minutes of stoppage time, referee Baldomero Toledo blew his whistle and signaled, for Sporting Kansas City, the end of just the beginning.
"I'm extremely pleased that we're able to provide this to our ownership group and to our fans," Vermes said. "I say that because our ownership has committed not only significant funds to make sure that we're successful, but they're bought-in in every single way possible. They're all here at the game. They come to all the games. They're in everything, and I think it shows the players how committed they are. For them, I think this is a well-deserved reward for how committed they are to the game, to MLS, to this city.
"The other is our fans. It's incredible what's transpired here over the last three or four years. When you look tonight, and as Dom [Dominic Kinnear] says, we have another record [against the Dynamo] and you have to respect that that keeps happening. They keep coming, and it's great to reward them not only with tonight's win, but the opportunity to have MLS Cup here - it's tremendous. It's a great first for a new ownership, a new team that's been one of the founding teams of the league. It's exciting for sure."
With the 2-1 victory and the title of Eastern Conference Champions, Sporting Kansas City will face either the Portland Timbers or Real Salt Lake in the Major League Soccer Cup on Dec. 7 at Sporting Park. It's the first time that a stadium has hosted the MLS All-Star Game, U.S. Men's National Team, and MLS Cup in the same calendar year.