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“We had what, about 100 people at this game in Vancouver? Probably close to 200,” midfielder Graham Zusi said. “That in itself gave us a little extra boost. Talking with some of those guys, they’re expecting quite a bit more in Portland.”

Team president Robb Heineman often serves as the ringleader.

Regarded as one of the most forward-thinking executives in sports business, it’s Heineman who may be most responsible for the stadium, the team’s recent rebranding and the on-field success. In fact, when the team was blasted on a local sports radio station during its poor start last season, Heineman called up not to defend the team, but to agree with the radio hosts.

He vowed at the time that Sporting KC would turn things around.

Well, the turnaround certainly happened.

“I don’t have any doubt that they’re the best team in MLS right now,” Vancouver coach Martin Rennie said. “I think that would be very hard to argue.”

Vermes knows that attention will keep building until Sporting Kansas City loses, and there will be more questions and more distractions. He realizes that the MLS season is a marathon rather than a sprint, but he also knows a win now counts the same as a win later.

“At the end of the day, I think our players have approached this fantastically,” he said. “I think they’ve stayed extremely humbled, extremely focused, not getting ahead of themselves, and they’ve gone out and performed an executed. When you do that, you give yourself a chance.”