It’s been a challenging season for Sporting Kansas City, the type that left captain Johnny Russell contending “I'm embarrassed to call ourselves professionals” after their 7-2 loss at the Portland Timbers last weekend.

They were piercing comments from the 32-year-old Scottish winger, with SKC on a league-low 0.75 points per game and negative-13 goal differential with more than a third of their campaign over. And their seven-game winless streak only underscores a sharp contrast between a 2011-21 stretch when they missed the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs just once while winning one MLS Cup and three US Open Cups, becoming a model franchise.

So, where’s it all gone wrong? And what big changes, if any, are on the horizon? They’re questions the Extratime crew tackled in their latest episode, debating topics sporting director/manager Peter Vermes is surely kicking around as well.

“I don't think there's any hope for 2022,” Matt Doyle said. “I was pretty down on the talent on this team heading into the season, and what hope I had for them came from my confidence in Peter Vermes' ability to figure it out. I think he will figure it out eventually, it's just not going to be for this year. They're just not good enough.”

One aspect of SKC’s struggles may be aging core roster pieces, with goalkeeper Tim Melia (36), defender Graham Zusi (35) and midfielder Roger Espinoza (35) all seemingly approaching their career’s closing chapters.

Andrew Wiebe said there “needed to be a transition moment” between generations of SKC players, a roster-building needle that’s seldom easy to thread. But Doyle thinks it’s not an easy fix for a club that previously flourished via the SuperDraft and incorporated homegrown-developed talent.

“I think the next two or maybe even three transfer windows are going to be about completely rebuilding this roster,” Doyle said. “And I give Vermes credit for holding on with the guys who did so many great things for so long with Sporting Kansas City, but this was one year too long for that.”

Injuries are another huge component, with two Designated Players – striker Alan Pulido and attacking midfielder Gadi Kinda – both out for the year with knee injuries. They’re established internationals, with Pulido (Mexico) their club-record signing and Kinda (Israel) a dynamic piece to the final-third puzzle alongside Russell and Hungarian international Daniel Salloi.

“There isn't really an MLS team that can afford to miss two DPs and still be competitive,” David Gass said.

The shortcomings have left some fans wondering if Vermes’ time in charge has run its course. He’s the longest-tenured coach in MLS, having taken over Sporting KC midway through the 2009 season, and holds a dual-responsibility role similar to the ones Bruce Arena (New England Revolution) and Toronto FC (Bob Bradley) have elsewhere.

That power and influence ensure Vermes’ hands are all over the roster, but a change might not produce desired outcomes.

“I'd say be careful what you wish for because if you move on as a club or you make a decision like that,” Calen Carr said, “and I'm not saying it's close either because I really don't think it's close at all, it could take a long time to recover.”

Added Gass: “It's still Peter Vermes. People have bad years, teams have bad years. Things fall apart. Pulido gets hurt, Kinda gets hurt. That happens. That doesn't mean he's lost his touch with the league, that doesn't mean he's lost his touch with what he can do for KC.”

For Sporting KC to right the ship, the Open Cup could provide a path forward after they booked a Round of 16 spot last week. They’ll also play three of their next four league games at Children’s Mercy Park, offering a turnaround opportunity.

But is the writing on the wall for entering tear-it-down-mode, ala an NBA team? Wiebe said that might not be in SKC's nature under Vermes.

"I also think it's antithesis to what Peter Vermes represents in a lot of ways too, of just uber-competitiveness, of ringing the absolute most out of a team, out of a system, out a spend and that being a point of pride, of identity," Wiebe said. "That would be a huge thing."

For more Extratime analysis following Week 11, check out the entire episode here.