Vermes asks more from SKC defense despite solid start

Peter Vermes

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Unbeaten Sporting Kansas City have gone four games without giving up a goal from the run of play.

But all that means, manager Peter Vermes says, is that his defense has caught some breaks.

Sporting (4-0-0) have three shutouts, with Ricardo Villar’s free kick in the first half of a 2-1 win over FC Dallas on March 24 the only goal allowed this season. Still, Vermes is bothered by opponents’ near misses — such as the shot Nick LaBrocca put off the woodwork in Sunday’s 1-0 victory over Chivas USA.

While giving credit to goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen for cutting down the angle and forcing the miss, Vermes still wasn’t happy that LaBrocca had the opportunity to score in the first place.

“I can tell you that one of the biggest things that happens when you’ve had a few wins under your belt, things get glossed over,” Vermes said Wednesday during the team’s weekly news conference. “We’ve made some mistakes. The difference is that the other teams just haven’t capitalized on them. Not to take away that we’ve done a good job on certain areas defending, which is very true, but there’s other things that we still need to work on.

“I want to guard against thinking that we’re some invincible team,” he added, “because by any means we haven’t proven that yet. “

Center back Matt Besler agreed with Vermes’ assessment, while still showing some guarded pride in the defense’s accomplishments thus far.

“For us to get the shutouts, that’s our goal,” he said. “We always talk about it before every game. That’s really the bottom line, getting the shutout. So from that aspect, we’ve been pretty successful so far. But for us, as we start building upon that, we start looking at individual plays where we need to get better.

“I think we’ve looked at plays from each game where we weren’t very happy to give up the chances we did,” he added. “If the other team scores that chance, it’s not a shutout. It’s all great right now, but there’s still a lot of things we’re working on to make sure we don’t give up those chances.”

Sporting can’t afford any defensive lapses on Saturday against the LA Galaxy (4 pm ET, ESPN, LIVE CHAT on MLSsoccer.com). While the defending Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup champions have been struggling in the back, their strike force of Robbie Keane and Edson Buddle is as dangerous as any in the league.

“If we give a team like LA, with Keane or Buddle up top, the chances that we’ve given away over the course of four games, they’re gonna punish us,” Vermes said. “We have to be a lot better in some of those situations.”

Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com. Write to him at steve@artkc365.com.