Across their last three league games – draws against struggling New England Revolution and New York Red Bulls sides, then a loss at the surging San Jose Earthquakes – Sporting have leaked 10 goals. Head coach Peter Vermes has characterized most as soft, and on Tuesday a candid Graham Zusi spoke with MLSsoccer.com about allowing three in the first half of a 4-4 draw against the Revs.
“A lot of times when teams are in these slumps, you can get scored on and it’s like an, ‘Oh, here we go again,’ thing, and sometimes you feel sorry for yourselves,” Zusi, the team’s right back, said. “That’s when it just gets worse. I think at halftime of this last game against New England, we kind of, before Peter even came into the locker room, had that discussion at halftime of the game. ‘What are we feeling sorry for ourselves for?’”
“Goals are going to happen,” Zusi continued. “But it has got to be a bigger reaction after that. You can’t just hang your head and let the pummeling continue. Just stop feeling sorry for yourselves and do the simple things right and well. You’ll be amazed at what the game will bring you.”
Vermes was asked postgame on Saturday about whether or not the current personnel could right the ship defensively. The Sporting coach, a US men's national team defender himself in the 1980s and 1990s, was candid in his response.
“I’ll tell you this: I’ll win, because we’ll keep working,” Vermes said. “At some point, they’ll be better, for sure.”
It’s not a definite answer, but Sporting can also do little about their personnel right now. Jaylin Lindsey and center back Matt Besler are still out injured, and longtime left back Seth Sinovic hasn’t played 90 minutes in an MLS match since March 30.
So how will they get out of it?
“I think it starts right out here on the training field,” Zusi said. "I kind of alluded to it earlier, as a team and a staff, they’re going to have to put us through those ABC’s, the basics of what we’ve done and for us, it’s on us to not react poorly or have a, ‘This is dumb because we know this,’ attitude. We don’t know it because we haven’t been doing it. I think it’s going to take a mature mind in these trainings and like Peter says, it’s putting in the work. In the past it’s what has made us good, made us great.”
“I think we’ve proved that we’re a very good team earlier in the season,” Fontas said. “We don’t have to find ourselves in other years, or far away. We’ve done it, and we know how to do it … As soon as we get the result, I think the team will get the confidence again and prove that we are a good team.”