Tuesday, December 6

Sporting Kansas City aims for bounce back Saturday at NYCFC

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Sporting Kansas City Manager and Sporting Director Peter Vermes knows that patience isn’t a virtue in professional sports.

But 10 games into the season, a traditional annual benchmark for the longest-tenured coach in MLS to assess his club, Vermes said Friday that it’ll take more time than usual to determine Sporting KC’s ceiling in 2022.

“There’s not a lot of things in life that, if you want to be good, don’t take time,” Vermes said. “When you have new people or you lack continuity, there is going to be a cause and effect.”

Comparing this year’s Sporting KC club — beset by short- and long-term injuries on the heels of a disjointed preseason — to the standard set most of the last decade is tough, Vermes said.

Designated Players Alan Pulido, a former Liga MX scoring champion and arguably the most talented striker in Sporting KC history, and Gadi Kinda, a dynamic attacking midfielder, won’t play a single minute this season after knee surgeries.

Kinda had been expected back by mid-April, so the second surgery announced last week was a major blow to the club’s roster.

“I don’t know any team in the league that, when you lose two of your three DPs, that you’re not going to be affected in a dramatic way,” Vermes said. “We have been. That’s not an excuse. It’s just reality.”

Several other key players — including Johnny Russell, Daniel Salloi, Khiry Shelton and Uri Rosell — have missed time with muscle injuries and a handful of newcomers were late arrivals to training camp while navigating visa and contract issues.

Vermes always knew the fluid roster situation could make for a ragged opening stretch, but Sporting KC still expected to start the season better than 2-6-2.

But he’s not ready to call 2022 a lost season and neither are the players as Sporting KC prepares to take on New York City FC this weekend.

“I’ve never questioned the lack of effort from the team on the whole,” Vermes said. “On certain situations? Yes, but over the course so far of these 10 games, their effort’s been great, their attitudes are tremendous and they realize that, look, we have a challenge.”

He continued, “Have they had their moments of faltering or failure even? Yeah, so has the coaching staff. So have we, but everybody comes back the next day driven to try to be better. Their effort has been tremendous over that period of time.”

Sporting KC managed more than one goal in a game for the first time this season last Saturday in a 2-2 draw with FC Dallas. It was the club’s second straight draw, which ended a run of five losses in six matches.

But the road doesn’t get easier, especially given Sporting KC’s struggles away from its fortress in Kansas City, Kansas.

For the first time in the 27-year history of the club, Sporting KC, which is 0-5-0 away from Children’s Mercy Park, has failed to secure at least a point in its first five away fixtures.

The club’s previous worst start through five road games was 0-4-1, which had happened three times — the Wiz’s inaugural season in 1996, 1999 and during Vermes’ first full season in 2010.

“We’re going to have to keep working, we’re going to have to work smart and we’re going to have to get better — not only on the field, but also as coaches we have to continue to be better at our job, so we can be prepared for each opponent,” Vermes said.

He hopes some consistency and continuity with the game-day lineup moving forward will make a difference and allow Sporting KC to turn the season around.

“They know, we know that we’re all going out and working for the next result — and I believe they’ll come,” Vermes said. “The guys believe in themselves, and that’s the most important thing.”

Sporting KC (2-6-2) returns to action at 6 p.m. on Saturday at NYCFC (4-3-1). The game will air live on KSHB 41’s sister station, 38 The Spot.

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