KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Sporting Kansas City sit at the foot of the Eastern Conference table after eight games, but they are far from hitting rock bottom or giving up hope.
Following what amounted to a roller coaster of a week, Sporting (1-6-1) are simply looking to continue moving in the right direction Saturday night in Colorado (9 pm ET, watch LIVE online) against the Rapids (4-3-5).
Kansas City’s last six days have been characterized by the lowest of lows when they dropped a 1-0 game in Seattle on a stoppage-time goal, and a much-needed high when dominating New England 5-0 to advance to the US Open Cup third round. At this point, they’re just trying to keep their heads above water.
Despite practically running the Revolution off the field on Wednesday, Kansas City are still well aware of the fact that they haven’t won in league play since opening day, a fact that has left manager Peter Vermes’ team hungry for points to salvage something from their season-opening road trip.
“I wouldn’t say it’s desperation,” defender Matt Besler said, “but we want it really badly. We realize how important it is right now. It would be nice to get a few wins here in these last two games on the road before we open up at home.”
It would also be nice to get a few breaks along the way.
Perhaps more than any other team in Major League Soccer, Sporting has dealt with a disproportionate amount of adversity in 2011, and — predictably — the results have reflected that.
Because their stadium wasn’t slated to be completed until June, the club embarked on a 10-game road trip to start the season. Along the way, they’ve been on the receiving end of three red cards, an epic meltdown in Vancouver, a serious injury to their Designated Player and five straight league losses.
It won’t get any easier this weekend as Vermes is forced to field a lineup missing four regulars, at least two of whom would be starters. Roger Espinoza, Kei Kamara, Stéphane Auvray and Shavar Thomas have already left to join up with their respective national teams.
Ultimately, you really can’t blame Sporting for feeling like it’s their turn to catch a break.
“I feel like we deserve it,” striker Teal Bunbury said. “We’ve been playing well in most of our games, but the results aren’t showing that. That’s what it comes down to. In this beautiful game, you’ve got to get goals and you have to not get scored on.”
The formula itself is simple, but it’s been the execution that has been spotty this season for Kansas City.
Sporting played 92 near-flawless minutes against the Sounders before a missed assignment on a corner kick left Jeff Parke wide open to nod home the winning goal.
And despite the consequences of that momentary lapse, the overall effort was still encouraging for a side that had been worn out 4-1 by the Galaxy just a week earlier. Instead of pressing high up the field and giving their opponents the opportunity to exploit wide-open spaces, Kansas City dropped dropped line of pressure, defended as a group and attempted to punish Seattle on the break once they got the ball.
It’s a strategy Vermes will likely go to again to counter a Colorado side that will be eager to break up a difficult stretch of its own with a victory at home.
“We’ll take our chances with the kind of speed we have up front,” Vermes said. “The more other teams have to come and put themselves out, that means there is more space behind them to play into with speed.”
Still, even without those breaks going their way so far, the conviction is still there. Sporting may not be where they wanted to be at this time a few months ago, but three points in Colorado this weekend or Toronto the next could very well change that.
“I really think they believe in each other,” Vermes said. “It’s just that we have to get through a rough time.”