Sporting using bye week for rest and improvement
While the other teams in MLS are spending the weekend on the pitch, Sporting Kansas City will be taking a break . Then it’s back to tweaking the high-pressure, high-energy system that has produced the league’s hottest start.
“We’re giving the guys a chance to unload this week, and then we’re going to pick it up going into next week,” Vermes said on Tuesday. “Then we have some things that we just want to work on, that we thought this would be a good time. I don’t really want to discuss too much what that is, but it’s just a part of our game that we can be a little better at.”
The fact that Vermes could afford to be coy shows just how strong Sporting has been so far.
Even with last week’s 1-0 loss at Portland, Sporting take aleague-best 7-1-0 record into their bye weekend. They’ve outscored opponents 12-3, and one of those opposing goals came off left back Chance Myers in the Timbers loss. Midfielder Graham Zusi leads MLS with six assists, and right winger Kei Kamara is tops in shots (40) and shots on goal (18).
And for all their reputation as a physical side, Sporting haven’t had anyone sent off yet.
Vermes didn’t get KC to last year’s Eastern Conference final and the early-season lead in 2012 by being easily satisfied, though, and his players are taking a similar approach.
“We’re not going to sit back and think that everything’s perfect right now, because it’s not,” Zusi told MLSsoccer.com after the team’s training session on Friday. “There’s always room for improvement.”
Left winger Bobby Convey agreed with that assessment.
“You can always work on stuff, but I think we’ve done well,” Convey said. “We’ve only lost by scoring on ourselves, and that was a freak own-goal. I’ve never seen anything like that before in my life. But other than that, I think we’ve been doing fine.”
So, if the challenge is “Spot the Non-Glaring Weakness,” what might the leading candidates be?
Perhaps it’s that no left-side player has scored yet for Sporting this season. Then again, Convey was brought in to provide service and possession, not goal-scoring power, and left-side midfielder Roger Espinoza has been just inches off on a handful of shots.
Maybe it’s a perceived need for more scoring in general -- but on the flip side, the back line has proven itself up to the task so far and a 1-0 win is still worth three points.
Or, perhaps, it’s a need to depend a little less on set pieces and counters to create opportunities. Only three of their goals this year have come from possessions of more than five passes, and all of those came in a 3-0 rout of New England in Week Two.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, Zusi said.
“With the athleticism that we have up top, we win the ball and we’re able to get forward quickly to counter teams very effectively,” he said. “I think that’s just the nature of the team right now.”