KANSAS CITY, Mo. – When Peter Vermes took the reins from Curt Onalfo late in the 2009 season, he did so because he felt something was missing.
The team he helped build as technical director lacked fight and cohesion. And because of those shortcomings, Kansas City were lacking in the most important department of all: results.
A year-and-a-half later, Vermes is beginning to see the unity and battle-tested attitude he found wanting when he took on the role of manager.
“It wasn’t there yet,” Vermes said. “It’s there now. That’s for darn sure.”
In truth, that sense of togetherness is a required ingredient for Sporting Kansas City to play to their potential this year and bounce back from two straight seasons without a playoff appearance.
More than most systems, Vermes' high pressure, fluid 4-3-3 formation requires his players to act as a cohesive unit to defend high up the field and transition to offense quickly while also maintaining a shape that doesn’t leave the back line overly exposed.
It’s a system and a style of play that worked to perfection at times in 2010 (see Kansas City’s late run into playoff contention) but also experienced its share of rough points when the team stumbled out of the gate.
[inline_node:328039]But with another year for Vermes to preach his style of play and another preseason to bring the squad together, Sporting are hoping to see the consistency on the field that was lacking at times in 2010.
“I think we’re more on the same page this year than we were at the beginning of last year,” captain Davy Arnaud said. “We’ve had a full year now of really seeing what makes us successful, knowing what your roles are and what the coaches expect from each position.”
And what Vermes and his assistants expect is an unwavering commitment to the cause.
Teal Bunbury may still be young by professional standards, but he said even he could see the difference between the team this time last season and the one that will take the field against the Chicago Fire on Saturday afternoon.
“Everyone is fighting for each other,” Bunbury said. “That’s what coach has been stressing to everyone. If one player goes down, help him up and rally. I feel like that’s what we need to win games. We need everyone to have each other’s backs and push for each other and play for each other.”
Sporting will certainly need that attitude during their current road trip, which lasts nine more games and nearly two-and-a-half more months.
But with a year of ups and downs to draw upon and another preseason together, Vermes said he's confident he has finally cultivated the mindset that was missing a few years ago.
“I think the guys have been through the grind a little bit,” Vermes said. “That’s a good thing. It’s good for them going into this stretch with the kind of mentality that they have right now.”