Sporting Kansas City boss Peter Vermes has suggested his side are lacking the mental fortitude in attack and defense as the MLS outfit continue to struggle with form this term.
SKC welcome Columbus Crew this weekend, with just two wins from their first eight games to their name, leaving them far off the pace of a potential postseason race even this early in the campaign.
Vermes, who has been in charge since 2009 and led the team to the MLS Cup in 2013, has mooted whether it is because his side are unable to hold onto a lead that has led to their weakness this term.
“One goal should be enough,” he stated. “Our mentality on defending and playing every roll of the ball is just not there & it has to be better.
“You don’t have to have a lot of talent to play as a defender. I don’t mean that disrespectfully to defenders.
“To be good, you have to have a really strong, tough mentality physically and mentally. And right now, we’re coming up short on both sides of that.”
The Crew meanwhile will hope to bounce back following the humiliation of an Open Cup exit to minnows Detroit, and in the absence of head coach Caleb Porter, midfielder Aidan Morris called for a response.
“There’s a lot of emotions right now,” he stated. “The one thing I can tell you is everyone realizes that they need to do better. Us as a whole, as a team, is going to change. I know it’s kind of easy and cliche to say but it’s going to change. We all hold ourselves accountable and it needs to be better.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Kansas City – Remi Walter
Only Diego Chara can boast a better pass completion rate than the Sporting man over eight games this term, with his 87.9 percent figure crucial to keeping Kansas City on the ball, even when the final product is lacking.
Columbus – Lucas Zelarayan
The Armenia international has enjoyed a blinding season so far this term when it comes to operating in attack. He heads the MLS with a best-in-show 28 attacking assists, a figure no other player can match right now.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Sporting Kansas City has won seven of its 10 matches against Columbus since the start of the 2013 season (D2 L1). Sporting’s 2.3 points per match against the Crew since the start of 2013 is best among teams that have faced Columbus at least three times in that span.
– Sporting Kansas City has lost 10 of its last 13 matches (W3) dating back to the end of last season (including playoffs), including six of eight to start this season. Sporting’s six points at this stage is tied for the third fewest after eight games in the club’s MLS history (3 in 1999, 4 in 2011).
– The Crew have lost three straight matches, failing to score in all three games. This is the fifth time in club history that Columbus has suffered three straight shutout losses, something they’ve never done in four consecutive games in the club’s MLS history.
– Last season, Jonny Russell hit 33 shots on target, finishing tied for 11th in the regular season in MLS. This year, Russell has hit just two shots on target (17 attempts), failing to record a shot on target in any of his last three games.
– The Crew have failed to score in their last three matches despite attempting a total of 55 shots over the three matches. Columbus has attempted at least 17 shots in all three matches, becoming the first team to take 17 or more shots in three straight matches and not score since FC Dallas in September 2011.