"Useless question": SKC coach Peter Vermes disputes tired legs as shaping Austin loss

Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes was ready to accept several explanations for his team's surprising 3-1 defeat at Austin FC on Wednesday night.

Fatigue just wasn't going to be one of them, as he made clear when asked whether it may have contributed to a performance that prevented SKC from moving back in front in the race for the Western Conference's top Audi MLS Cup Playoffs seed.

"No, it’s not tired legs," Vermes began, with more than a hint of annoyance in his voice. "They’re professional athletes. The weather is beautiful. To play a game like this, after you’ve played a game and to play a game this weekend, big deal. It’s not tired legs. It’s not tired legs at all. That’s an excuse.

"What do you think the other teams have to do in this league? What do you think they do? Do you think they change the whole entire team every game? No. Guys have to play in that kind of environment. Let’s move on to the next question. Because it’s a useless question. Sorry, but it’s useless."

It's true that a schedule that was compacted due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the collective bargaining process has challenged all 27 teams in the league this year.

At the same time, Sporting KC have defenders, midfielders and forwards that are all in the top 20 in MLS at their position in minutes played. Andreu Fontas and Luis Martins are tied for fourth and eighth, respectively, among defenders. Ilie Sanchez is 20th among midfielders, having often featured at center back.

As for attackers, Daniel Salloi, Johnny Russell and Khiry Shelton are all in the top 20. To be fair, that's partly a product of form, with Salloi and Russell scoring 31 goals between them this season. Russell bagged his 15th as a late consolation tally on Wednesday.

Vermes believed Wednesday's performance, which resulted in a second consecutive defeat, was more about early mentality than any physical wear. Austin's surge to a 2-0 lead by the 22nd minute, through goals from Sebastian Driussi and Julio Cascante, suggested as much.

"I think that the players are professionals and they have to find a way to start the game better. It’s as simple as can be," Vermes said. "There are times when you can have external motivation and there are times when you can have internal motivation. Normally it’s internal. As a pro athlete it’s internal motivation. It was a mistake on the team’s part and now they’ve gotta fight for the next game. That’s the way it goes. That’s the way this business is."

Despite SKC's first consecutive losses of the season, Vermes also pushed back against the idea of an increasing level of concern over his team's recent form. Especially since his team could still emerge from Decision Day as the West regular-season champs.

They'll host Real Salt Lake this Sunday (6 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+), looking to vault past Seattle atop the table. They can also secure a 2022 Concacaf Champions League spot.

"I never like to lose a game. So whenever I lose a game, I’m not happy," Vermes said. "Trend? I don’t know. It’s hard to say when we’re sitting where we are. I don’t know how to answer that question."