Six games without a win prompted Sporting KC players to call a private meeting Monday that in part addressed issues raised by head coach Peter Vermes after a 2-0 loss in Houston.
“These are environments where players have to make a decision as to what they want to do,” Vermes had said. “It's about competing. It's about not making mistakes, the same ones time and time again. That's a big piece of it.”
SKC’s season has gone into the tank after winning four of the first five games. In tying one and losing five, SKC has been outscored, 9-4. The barren run started April 13 with a 2-1 loss to Colorado at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park that knocked SKC off the top of the overall points standings. Dom Dwyer equalized in the 77th minute but five minutes later DP Shkelzen Gashi got to the rebound of Dillon Powers’ shot off the crossbar to head in the winner.
After the loss to Houston, Vermes cited many deficiencies in his team’s play, and after the team meeting, midfielder Benny Feilhaber agreed that in the past month SKC has come up short across the board.
“We weren't good enough in more than one aspect, I think,” Feilhaber said to reporters. “I think we've had some good conversations about it this morning, among the players and the coaches.”
Heading into Wednesday’s rematch at the same venue, SKC (4-5-2) is clinging to sixth place in the Western Conference. It is tied with Vancouver on points and just barely ahead on the second tiebreaker, goal difference.
“I think any time you go through a stretch without winning games, it's always difficult,” team captain Matt Besler told MLSsoccer.com. “It's not fun. As players -- and I'm sure the coaches will agree -- we're all trying to do everything we can to turn things around. At the same time, we all believe in what we're doing. We have to stick together through times like this.”
Against Houston, midfielder Soni Mustivar and defender Chance Meyers returned to the lineup after sitting out with injuries. Vermes isn’t ruling out more changes but he has many issues to resolve. After winning its second MLS Cup in 2013, SKC has finished the past two seasons in the Knockout Round slots, and it’s in the same position again.
“There's no specific thing,” he said. “It's so many different things. You can't just say it’s one thing. It never is. When you're going through a bad patch, it's a lot of different things, and you've got to make sure that you face them head-on and you get ready for the next game. That's really what it is.”
CAN FCD HALT SKID AT HOME? Goalless and pointless in three straight road games, FC Dallas returns home to play Portland Wednesday and Seattle on Sunday.
The last time FCD played twice in the same week it swept both games, beating the Timbers, 3-1, at Providence Park April 13 and following up with a 2-1 home victory over SKC. Not much has gone right since then, and on Saturday at the re-opening of BMO Field, FCD finished out a 1-0 loss to TFC with defender Ryan Hollingshead in goal.
A collision forced keeper Jesse Gonzalez to the sidelines and FCD, which had used up its three substitutes, used Hollingshead in the nets as one of its 10 men. Still, FCD held a slight edge in possession (51.3 percent) and completed 82 percent of its passes.
“Obviously disappointed with not getting a point from the game but we did much, much better today than the last two games,” said head coach Oscar Pareja. “We showed a lot of improvement, but we made some mistakes that created some options for Toronto and one of them was a goal.”
Gonzalez’s status for the Portland match is uncertain and backup Chris Seitz could get the start in goal. FCD is 3-0-2 at home and hasn’t been shut out in four consecutive games since 2013, but its go-to attackers are struggling. Striker Max Urruti hasn’t scored since March 26 despite starting in seven straight games, and Fabian Castillo has just two goals and two assists.
WINDOW SET TO CLOSE. Player movement will be greatly restricted when the transfer window closes Wednesday night.
Acquisitions involving non-MLS players under contract must be consummated before the deadline. Otherwise, such players cannot be registered until the secondary window opens July 4. The secondary window closes Aug. 3. Players released from their contracts prior to the closing of the windows in force at their previous clubs can be signed outside of the North American windows.
The closing of the transfer window also serves as the league’s trade deadline. The spat between Crew SC teammates between Kei Kamara and Federico Higuain sparked trade rumors involving both players. Head coach Gregg Berhalter confirmed teams had expressed interest in both players and several outlets reported the league had been contacted to gauge teams’ interests in Kamara.
Teams can make trades not involving players and loan players to non-MLS teams, subject to the registration periods of national federations involved.