Sporting Kansas City won their first game of the season yesterday...against the NPSL team Tulsa Athletic (I had to look that league up, by the way) in the opening round of the US Open Cup. Still zero wins against MLS competition, and with a doozy of a matchup against MLS competition CF Montreal, things aren't exactly out of the woods yet. You may wonder why I am being so negative about Sporting, one of the most successful sports franchises in the area. Let me tell you why.
Sporting started their downward slide during COVID. The team was a perennial playoff contender, had tons of talent, and one of the best coaches in the MLS with Peter Vermes. Since playoff semifinal heartbreak against Real Salt Lake in 2021, it's been nothing but down. They missed the playoffs in 2022, going 11-16-7 placing 22nd overall. With additions of Ben Sweat in free agency and Eric Thommy from Bundesliga team VfB Stuttgart, they had young acquisitions that looked promising for next year. Everyone in the Sporting KC fanbase was to believe this 2023 team would be better, so far, they have proven the opposite.
The effort from these acquisitions has been mediocre at best, the team can't find the back of the net, and overall looks completely out of sorts. It's not like they're not getting chances either or that the defense is poor, it isn't and Sporting controls possession most of their games. It's a matter of this team completely lacking chemistry, not capitalizing on chances that are practically spoon-fed to them, and selfish play. These are things that can be fixed with proper coaching, so where is the man that was once known as MLS's finest? Doing damage control, and really doing it poorly.
I'll admit this all does not lie on Peter Vermes. The players take on a lot of responsibility and he's not exactly used to being on a team that is hemorrhaging talent, goals, and in turn, wins. However, this is what separates the great coaches from the good and just okay, and with a team with a tradition of winning such as Sporting, not to mention one of the biggest soccer hubs in the entire United States, you need great. Peter Vermes has served his purpose so far, but it's starting to fall apart due to conservative strategy and a bullheaded culture. Part of that falls on ownership and general management too though, as they are the main architects of the culture surrounding the club. Sporting needs a culture change, the age of Matt Besler, Roger Espinoza, Ike Opara, and unfortunately, Graham Zusi and Johnny Russell, are over. Young guys need to get their time and this team needs to re-arm and redevelop. Players that have trade value need to be considered for transfer/on loan/trade/being let go entirely. Sporting is suffering from what I call "Kansas City Royals syndrome" and if change doesn't happen right now that type of conservative, boy's club mentality will fester until it turns really ugly.
However, is the solution to fire Vermes? That is the question on SKC fans' minds at the moment. Change certainly needs to happen, and with the Kansas City Current being proactive, firing their coach after a poor start, and immediately seeing dividends, you have to wonder if that's on Sporting ownership's mind. Is it change of a coach that will jumpstart that evolution of culture? Or does it need to be more? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
Burn Notice: 8/10 The kindling for a dumpster fire has been set, will it be lit though?