Sporting Kansas City’s season hasn’t gone as planned. After a strong start to the Major League Soccer season and advancing twice in the CONCACAF Champions League, Sporting KC have seen themselves hit a brutal skid.
The team currently sits in 10th place in the MLS Western Conference with a 3-5-7 record just two games shy of the halfway point of the season. That’s just 16 points through 15 games. They are four points out of the final playoff spot as of today.
There is a multitude of reasons for things to be as bad as they are. There was schedule congestion, there are injuries and frankly, the team just has played poorly at times. Despite that, the team captain Matt Besler felt compelled to defend his head coach and his team, while still taking responsibility for the results the team has left on the field.
He put out a tweet today (transcribed by The Blue Testament below) that’s worth reading, whether you agree with it or not.
“We’re at what most people would consider the halfway point of the season (even though we’ve only played 15 games and have 19 left) and I feel it’s important for every SKC fan to hear this. One thing I’ve learned in this profession is if you want to be successful, everyone needs to be on the same page- that means having real, honest, and sometimes difficult conversations. And since I’ve always viewed you [the fans] as a vital part of our team, it’s important you’re a part of this conversation.
I believe we started the year well. Every player voluntarily came in two weeks early (against CBA rules) and we accelerated our preseason faster than ever before in order to give ourselves a chance at making a run in the Champions League. Despite being the last MLS team standing, we eventually fell short, and I underestimated how difficult it would be to move on (physically and mentally) immediately after. That’s on me... live and learn.
Still, we managed to juggle both CCL and MLS league play early on and put ourselves in a decent position to start the season, capped off with a historic 7-1 win at home. Then the injuries came. I believe in order to have success in this league you need consistency in both personnel and performances. We had neither for a few weeks which made it difficult to get positive results.
Now we’re getting healthier, but we clearly still have a lot of work ahead. We’ve got to get better defensively. We simply can’t allow some of the goals we’re giving up. We also need to be better at finishing our chances when we get them. And we need to be better in the second half of games, specifically closing games out. All these have to be improved upon. If not, Peter [Vermes] will have to find players who can.
Speaking of Peter, we wouldn’t be having this conversation if it wasn’t for him and his expectations and accountability. He’s the best leader of an organization in our league and it’s not close. Shame on you if you don’t realize it. Ask any player, current or former, and everyone says the same thing... ‘he’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever played for.’ And the only reason players might not say THE BEST is simply out of respect for all the other coaches they’ve had. One of Peter’s best qualities is his ability to get a group of people on the same page and to all buy into an idea and belief... that will never change.
To summarize, I’m frustrated, confused, and uncomfortable with where we’re at right now. Things haven’t gone as expected and we’re in a position we haven’t been in for a very long time. Right now we’re below the playoff line. From 2012-2018, we spent one game below the playoff line in June or later. ONE. That’s out of almost 150 regular season games. That’s crazy. It means our club is not used to being in this position and don’t have experience dealing with it. Which is why we’re feeling the emotions I mentioned. However, it’s on us to embrace our position even if it’s uncomfortable.
If you want to give up on the season already, that’s ok, it’s your choice. We hope to prove you wrong. If you want to stick with us through it all, great. We hope to honor your loyalty. It will be a different challenge than in years past, but I’m confident we’ll respond in the right way. And when we do, we’ll be much stronger than before. Let’s go on a run in the second half of the season TOGETHER. As always, we appreciate your support.”
No matter what you think, that feels like a strong rallying cry to the fans, players, coaches and the league and a staunch defense of Peter Vermes. Sporting Kansas City aren’t four points out of the playoffs. They are JUST four points out. They could go on a run like the Seattle Sounders did the last three seasons (of course they could be this year’s Toronto FC too).
The Blue Testament will be there for the journey. Come join us. It should be a wild ride (or an epic disaster). There is really only one way to find out and that’s to watch.