VANCOUVER, B.C. – Sporting Kansas City can't seem to shake this run of poor road form, and this time it might have cost them any hope of reaching the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.
Tuesday night's 3-0 loss to Vancouver Whitecaps FC leaves Sporting with just one point out of their first two Group C matches, while Vancouver have taken all six points from their first two matches and need only to draw the last two to advance.
Sporting found themselves in a deep hole even before the quarter-hour mark, falling behind 2-0 after 12 minutes on goals by Cristian Techera and Erik Hurtado. Techera tacked on an insurance goal in the 64th, but Sporting were never really in the match after that early deficit.
"We made two early mistakes," manager Peter Vermes told reporters after the match. "They scored two good goals. Caught us on both the mistakes, then from that point on, they were the better team. They were more aggressive. They were better in the 1-on-1 duels. They were the better competitor today."
Sporting are winless in their last eight road matches across all competitions, with just one victory in their last 15 away dates. The lone success came against NASL side Minnesota United in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, a 2-1 victory on June 15, and they needed extra time to do that. They've also shipped 10 goals now in their last four away matches across all competitions.
Turning that around will be key for Kansas City if they want to make any noise in the postseason, but Vermes feels his side are playing well on the road and simply not getting the breaks.
"I think our form is very good, actually," he said. "We just played on Saturday and we won 2-0. I think we have good performances on the road as well. We just tied at Dallas on the road; we got a great point there. Our performances have been good. Sometimes the results don't go your way."
Vermes made 10 changes from his XI on Saturday, when Sporting beat Vancouver 2-0 for their sixth straight home victory. It was a chance for Sportong's fringe players to stake a claim to a regular starting point. Few took it, and Vermes had a stark message for his team.
"The unfortunate thing for guys when they don't do that is they leave themselves open to what the cruelty of this game is," he said. "At the end, if you don't take advantage of your opportunities, you leave yourself open at the end of the season to not be a part of the club. I think that's every time you step on the field, though."
With KC currently involved in a tight race for playoff positioning in the Western Conference, Vermes said that it's a tough juggling act for teams to do well in both competitions at such a crucial part of the league season, and the Champions League schedule doesn't help with that.
"I thought the way the tournament was set up from the beginning, with the schedule, was horrendous," he said. "Not to say that we didn't come in to compete for the tournament, but we've been in the competition now, this is the third time, and the scheduling and the way it was put together was horrendous.
"To compete and to travel like we have had to in games where we're playing on Tuesday after a Saturday match, it just doesn't make sense. If you're playing in Champions League in the rest of the world and over in Europe, you don't go into the Champions League trying to play a second team. You play with your best guys – but unfortunately, we don't have the luxury of doing that because of what the schedule was."