Consistency, and the continuing search for it, is a popular subject when Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes talks about the 2013 season.
But consistency in performance and effort is not always the same as consistency in results. And its the former that is more in a team’s control.
For example, Vermes was largely pleased with Sporting KC’s effort in a 1-1 draw May 19 at D.C. United.
Sporting KC controlled the game, setting the tempo and dominating possession.
Were it not for a blown offsides call and a spectacular cross from Chris Pontius that led to a United goal, Sporting KC surely would have won that match (and probably deserved the victory).
Last Sunday, Sporting KC drew 1-1 again, this time at Sporting Park against a Houston Dynamo team in much better form.
On the surface, the Dynamo draw would seem like the better of the two results, but Vermes wasn’t happy with a sluggish first-half performance.
So, what does Vermes mean when he talks about consistency?
“Our intensity in the way that we recover the ball when we lose it,” Vermes said. “That’s a big piece of it. The other is that, while we play the same formation every game, there are nuances implemented for the upcoming opponent. We have to continue to grow as a group in terms of executing those things we put in place.”
He continued, “Every team has strengths and weaknesses. If you know what they are, you should be able to counter those strengths or capitalize on the weaknesses. That’s something we have to be a little more hungry for at times.”
There have been moments of brilliance, including a thoroughly dominant performance in a 2-0 win March 30 against the Montreal Impact.
Of course, there also was the embarrassing 3-2 loss April 27 against the Portland Timbers.
“It’s not easy in this league to put in week-in, week-out great performances in the sense that you’re going to play really well every game,” Sporting midfielder Benny Feilhaber said. “You’ve got to come in with the attitude that you’re going to work really hard and make it tough for the other team.”
That didn’t happen against the Timbers, and it’s that kind of unevenness Vermes desires to see level out.
“We’re still searching for it a little bit,” goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen said. “Just take the last game against Houston. We didn’t get out there and put in the effort we needed to give us a good opportunity to win in the first half. We did a decent job, but it wasn’t anything like the second half when we battled more as a team. We’ve seen that a little too much.”
Part of it has to do with roster upheaval.
Sporting KC has been affected far more than most MLS clubs when it comes to international duty for its players.
Vermes also is trying to establish more rotation among his players in preparation for a busy summer that Sporting KC hopes will include another deep run in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in addition to the league slate and the CONCACAF Champions’ League.
“If you look at the last couple years since I’ve been coaching here, whenever I settled on a group of guys who had success or were finding results, I’d stick with them,” Vermes said. “I don’t have that luxury right now, because we’ve got so many games in such a short period of time and so much international duty.”
It’s a new challenge for Sporting KC, but one that could ultimately pay dividends as the club powers through three competitions.
“It’s a good exercise to have to go through at this point rather than running into games later in the season and saying, ‘Oh my god, now we’ve got all these games, let’s figure out how we’re going to run this,’ ” Vermes said. “The guys are getting used to it. They have to get accustomed to it as well, but we’re headed in the right direction.”