Peter Vermes wanted nothing to do with the storyline.

The Sporting Kansas City manager tired of the "Matt Besler returns" talk when Austin FC made its inaugural trip to Children's Mercy Park last month. With Los Verdes returning to town for a Saturday matinee, the lone match on the MLS weekend schedule, Vermes bristled.

"All due respect to Matt, but even the first match was (just) a match, and so is this," Vermes said. "This is us trying to get points, and I'm sure they're trying to get points. It's a game. At the end of the day, players have to sock it out on the field."

Besler, 34, played in nearly 300 games for SKC from 2009-20 before joining expansion Austin as a free agent in January. Kansas City spoiled his May 9 homecoming, winning 2-1 on Gadi Kinda's 90th-minute goal.

Vermes has reason to be looking beyond sentiment on Saturday.

With a victory, SKC (5-2-1, 16 points) would take over the top spot in the race for the Supporters' Shield, with a game in hand with Seattle and New England. Vermes' club has won four of its last five, including three straight. Kansas City's four come-from-behind victories are three more than any other MLS club.

"For me, it's seeing what our performance is, and then what the results are off those performances," he said. "I'm becoming more satisfied as we continue to get closer to the way we want to play."

Austin took a lead in the seventh minute in the first match between the two clubs, but a second yellow card on Alex Ring in the 67th minute contributed to SKC's comeback.

"I think the red card changes everything," Austin FC coach Josh Wolff said after the match. "The red changed the whole dynamic of the game. I think there was a big result there for us and I think our guys know that and I think the people that watched the game would know that as well."

Austin (2-4-1, seven points) occupies 11th place in the 13-team West. The club won two of its first three games, but have gone 0-3-1 in their last four matches and carry a 353-minute scoreless drought into Kansas City.

--Field Level Media

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