Sporting KC call defensive struggles "frustrating," but find ways to get by

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Four weeks into the new MLS season, Sporting Kansas City (2-1-1) are sitting at the top of the Western Conference table with seven points from four games, despite an uncharacteristically leaky defense.

Sporting continued to ride their good fortune and impressive resiliency on Saturday night, scrapping to a 2-2 draw with the Colorado Rapids after conceding two early goals at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

“It’s frustrating because [defense] is what we pride ourselves off of and how we build ourselves,” said SKC defender Ike Opara. “We want to strive for shutouts and limiting opportunities. I think we’ve done that at times, but then there are times when we’ve made bad decisions in crucial moments and it’s punished us. It’s frustrating but it’s March and we’re sitting OK.”

It marked the fourth game in a row in which SKC has conceded multiple goals – a scene which has been all too familiar for head coach Peter Vermes’ side this season.

Through Week 4, a Kansas City side that was the league's stingiest defense in 2017 has conceded a joint league-high nine goals in this campaign. (Kansas City are one of only six teams that have already played four matches.)

On Saturday, they conceded twice within eight minutes, before some late-arriving fans would've even found their seats. 

“The first 10 minutes for us were the dickens. I wasn’t sure if it was the first 10 or 15 minutes, but it was not good,” Vermes said. “I don’t know what we were doing. We were snoozing, sleeping at that moment.”

As frustrating as this latest lapse was, it gave Sporting yet another chance to prove their frame of mind. And even though they went into halftime still trailing by two goals, that change was obvious, as SKC began to control the tempo of the game, leading in shots and possession along the way. 

“What did happen and what was shown tonight was our mentality,” Vermes said. “We have a great mentality, there’s a great belief in the guys and in themselves. They believe in what we’re trying to do and to come back against a team away from home and in their home opener, there’s so much energy. You’ve got to fight through that and we did that.”

That continued after halftime, when SKC outshot the Rapids and eventually leveled through goals from Felipe Gutierrez in the 57th minute and Diego Rubio in second-half stoppage time.

“We put ourselves in a tough hole, unfortunately,” said Opara. “We responded really well, we created some decent chances and we came back and got a point. The good thing about it was we came in at halftime and made some adjustments, but those adjustments are going to bode well for us moving forward.”