KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Blown up by counterattacks one week, done in by bad set-piece marking the next. At least Peter Vermes can keep a sense of gallows humor about his club's uncharacteristic defensive funk.
“Hopefully we'll keep checking those things off, once each week,” Sporting Kansas City's manager said with a wry laugh, after Friday night's 3-1 home loss to the Houston Dynamo. “Eventually, we'll get it right.”
It's no laughing matter for Kansas City, though, that for the first time since Sporting Park opened in 2011, they've given up three goals in back-to-back losses at home.
“We're in a rough patch right now,” center back and captain Matt Besler told reporters. “It's as simple as that. We have to find a way to get out of it. We can talk about a lot of different things, but the bottom line is, we have to come together and figure a way out of it. That's not what we're about, the last two games.”
Especially disconcerting, Besler said, is that things went south quickly in both losses. Last week, D.C. United hit them for three goals in under eight minutes in a 3-0 decision – and on Friday, the Dynamo broke open a 1-1 match with two headed goals, both off free kicks by Brad Davis, in a five-minute span.
“That part doesn't taste very well – for me, individually,” he said. “But as we've talked about all week, we win and lose as a team, and we stick together no matter what, whether it's an individual mistake, whether the defense doesn't play well, whether the offense doesn't play well, whether the midfielders don't play well, we win and lose as a team.
“But obviously, giving up three goals in a game, two games in a row, is not part of the game plan. It's not who we are.”
“I'll be turning 48 here in a couple of months,” Vermes said. “If you give me the same situation that Horst had, where I'm standing in front of the goal and I'm by myself, and the ball gets served in on the inside of the 6-yard box, I'm going to put it in the back of the net. Anybody can do that.”
Center back Aurelien Collin, whose missed clearance led to Will Bruin's goal in the 35th minute, said Sporting's veteran-heavy club still have what it takes to regroup and make a run at a second straight MLS Cup title.
“We've been doing a lot of mistakes,” he said. “I would call it a complicated phase – but like every season, we have some times like that. We can't lose faith. We have a great team. It happens. We have to make sure that this was an accident, and the next game we show that we're better on the small details that today, and the last game, we were not good at.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.