Monday, May 16, 2011

Vermes out, please (and Heineman while you're at it)

Sporting KC dropped yet another match over the weekend, 4-1 to LA Galaxy. It was KC's fifth loss out of seven matches already this season. Vancouver has equalled the same amount of losses, however, they have also played four more matches this season. Going into the season many had high hopes for Sporting KC. There was a new name, new kit and colours, a new designated players and above all a new stadium. Unfortunately, that new stadium hasn't opened yet and won't until June 9 (and that is if there aren't any unforeseen problems over the next month). Sporting is in the final stretch of a 10-game (regular season) swing that will finally end soon.

Looking back I hope the suites at Sporting KC realize what a ridiculous idea it has been to start on the road for first three months of the season; and it has definitely shown in the results of a team that is comprised of some quality attacking options, but few options in the midfield or defence. The architects of this squad are two people that seem to get a pass from many of Sporting's faithful fans. Robb Heineman has been the team's president since 2006 and has given most of the ruling power to Peter Vermes as both manager and technical director during this time. Vermes has been with the club for the same amount of time, first solely in the TD role, but since the latter part of 2009 has also filled the role as manager. But during his five plus years with KC/Sporting this club has rarely put out a team worthy of contending. Since taking over as manager in 2009 Vermes' KC has failed to make the play-offs and has an overall record of 15-25-9 (W-L-T). Not sparkling form  by any means. The man Vermes took over for, Curt Onalfo, in comparision went 25-24-28 during his two plus years in charge. That included two play-off appearances making it to the semi-finals and quarter finals in 2007 and 2008 respectively with very weak teams (going out with a wimper at these points). Both seem to have very similar records, but atleast Onalfo made the play-offs with two teams with less attacking abilities than Vermes' current team(s).

Since taking over for Onalfo, Vermes has tried to implement an attack minded 4-3-3 formation that has at best shown mixed results. He also seems to be a manager that is unfamilar with the old adage that you build your team from the back and up the middle. He has decided to do the opposite and build from the front; and one can only assume he believes his team can out score every opponent they face. Seattle's manager Sigi Schmid, who has done it all in North American soccer, has been quoted to saying the 4-3-3 cannot work in MLS. Looking at Sporting's disjoined version of it it's hard to disagree. Anyone with some soccer knowledge could see the many fundamental mistakes that this team is making on the pitch from not tracking back, following runs and not closing down opponents. Those are simple soccer aspects that all players must do, but what the 4-3-3 is doing every game is leaving large gaps between the back four and the midfield and attackers. Often the midfield three are pushed too far forward and the team has been beaten on the counter attack as a result. Watch the matches against Vancouver, New England and most recently LA to see this for yourself. With such weak centerbacks this team needs a player to sit in front of the back four to protect them. In their current 4-3-3 they should have someone like Stephane Auvray or Craig Rocastle to sit there and break up the play in the midfield, but we don't see that from this team.

With the product on the field I'm not sure where this team is headed. Sporting hasn't signed a player from abroad of significance since Claudio Lopez (though many disagree with that) and the juries still out on Omar Bravo in my opinion. They've also had mixed results in the draft; not to mention the trade of Luis Gil a young moldable attacking player to Salt Lake last season. Though they have done better with the drafts of Teal Bunbury and C.J. Sapong. I know Kansas City isn't a luxurious destination, but if Dallas and Salt Lake can find quality in South America and abroad than why can't KC? Either KC's scouting is that bad or people would rather live in Utah than Kansas City (no offense to Utah).

I've been an advocate of Vermes and Heineman's removal for sometime. But would that make this team any better? Probably only for a short time. I appreciate the accessibility of Heineman, that's great to see, but having a genuine soccer mind assisting Vermes in the GM/TD role could help immensely with some new perspective (I'm willing to apply). The biggest thing that would help this team is some change and flexibility in Vermes' formation and tactics. Watching from the stadium or on TV it's becoming obvious that you can see the players aren't wanting to play for this team. And who would want to when they're rock bottom and going no where fast.

But as I've read the hardcore Sporting forum writers keep saying, in MLS a few wins and they'll be in the play-offs. Well, I really hope they're cool heads prove me wrong in October.

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