KANSAS CITY, Kan. — By all statistical measures, Sporting Kansas City is enduring the worst start to a regular season since the rebrand in 2011.
Through 8 games, SKC sit with must 6 points and a 2W-6L-0D record and having scored a mere 6 goals, by far their worst goal tally during the stretch.
In the midst of a 3 game losing streak, head coach Peter Vermes is focusing on his team’s mentality in all facets of the game, specifically defending and holding on to small leads.
“One goal should be enough,” Vermes said. “Our mentality on defending and playing every roll of the ball is just not there and it has to be better.”
In 2021, only 5 of Sporting’s 17 wins were by a single goal and none of them were a 1-0 scoreline. In fact, in games the club only scored one goal, the posted a record of 0W-8L-5D.
Coupled with the lack of goals, Sporting KC’s struggles have been evident this season, specifically on the road where they have lost all their games and allowed 12 goals, including allowing 3 goals at Atlanta, Chicago and LAFC.
“You don’t have to have a lot of talent to play as a defender,” Vermes said. “I don’t mean that disrespectfully to defenders. To be good, you have to have a really strong, tough mentality physically & mentally. And right now, we’re coming up short on both sides of that.”
All hope is not lost, however.
In 2011, the first year under the new name and seal, Sporting KC started the season 1W-6L-1D scoring 11 goals in the process.
Children’s Mercy Park had yet to open and SKC started the season with a 10-game road trip until the inaugural match on June 9.
Despite the ugly start to the season, Vermes managed to right the ship and Sporting KC finished atop the Eastern Conference. That season, the top three teams qualified directly to the Conference Semifinals where they beat the Colorado Rapids in a two game series. They would eventually lose to the Houston Dynamo in the Conference Finals.
That year, Sporting also managed to put on an impressive Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup campaign, making it to the quarterfinals.
In 2015, the club started off 2W-2L-4D, once again righting the ship and making it to the MLS Cup Playoffs Knockout Round and winning the U.S. Open Cup.
Sporting and fans of the club are not used to slow starts, but when they’ve happened in the past, things have worked out positively.
SKC went through a major roster overhaul in the offseason and have been missing Mexican and Israeli internationals Alan Pulido and Gadi Kinda, respectively, for the entire start of the season.
Pulido underwent knee surgery and will miss 2022 in its entirety and Sporting have been without a true No. 9 striker who can put away chances.
Kinda is expected to return from a knee injury soon and his explosive and flashy play in the midfield could provide a spark for the offense, subsequently inspiring the defense to hold on to leads.
Following their most recent road loss to LAFC, winger and captain Johnny Russell spoke to the team’s mentality.
We all need to lift our game, individually and as a team. We all need to lift each other and battle harder for each other. Then our quality will shine through,” Russell said. “We need to defend better as a team and we need to attack better as a team. That’s on us forwards, as well. We haven’t been anywhere near the standards we set last year, so we need to get back to that level.”
Russell also pointed to the team’s struggles getting into a groove offensively.
“We’re missing some players, haven’t had a consistent lineup and haven’t been able to find ourselves in the attack yet. We’ve got too many quality players all over the field to not create chances or score goals. I’m not going to lie—it’s been massively frustrating. I’m not worried that it’s going to be like that all year. I’ve got confidence in my teammates and myself that we’ll all come good, but it’s time to do it now,” Russell said.
Russell and the rest of the club will hope to begin the “righting of the ship” on Saturday when they host the Columbus Crew who are coming off a loss in the U.S. Open Cup and a three game losing streak of their own in regular season play.
The cross-conference match will kickoff at 7:30 p.m. from Children’s Mercy Park.