Sporting KC's Peter Vermes after team's third straight loss: "We have to work harder"

Sporting Kansas City's first three-match losing streak since early 2012 has seen the defending MLS Cup champs outscored 9-2. After Wednesday night's 3-1 loss at New England, they have just four points in six matches since Aug. 1.

His club needs a victory to stop the skid, manager Peter Vermes told reporters during a conference call after the defeat, and they're going to have to work hard to get it.

“It's like I've said before: 'You've got to look this stuff in the eye,” he said. “You can't back off of it, and right now we have to – we have to – look it in the face, and we have to work harder. The bottom line is that we've got to work harder.”

Sporting seemed to be in good shape just before halftime on Wednesday, leading 1-0 on Soony Saad's 9th-minute header. Then Teal Bunbury scored in the 45th, his second goal in as many appearances against his former club since being traded away in the offseason, and Lee Nguyen scored the first of his two goals less than three minutes into the second half.

Even with intermission between the tallies, that still continued Sporting's recent trend of conceding multiple goals within a short stretch of game time.

“For 44 minutes, we actually played pretty darn well,” said Vermes, whose side's hopes of equalizing and salvaging a point were dashed by Nguyen's second goal deep in second-half stoppage time. “We gave nothing away. Then we give a cheap goal away, and now all of a sudden it changes the course of the game. They come out in the second half, we give another one away, and the third one is the same thing.”

Goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum returned from a shoulder injury for Wednesday's match, playing behind a reshuffled back line that saw Lawrence Olum starting at center back in place of Aurelien Collin.

“He hasn't been in form,” Vermes said of the two-time MLS All-Star, who has struggled in the back in recent outings. “It's better sometimes for guys to sit on the sideline and see what's going on, maybe make some decisions from there.”

Vermes did not say whether he'd make more defensive changes for Saturday's match at New York, when he also will have forward Dom Dwyer and midfielder Benny Feilhaber back from yellow-card suspension.

“We'll have to assess who's healthy and ready to go,” he said. “That'll be the first piece, and then I'll make decisions from there.”

Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.