The desire to bolster the offense manifested a formation tweak only 10 days ago, and in its ensuing two matches, Sporting Kansas City pulled the trigger on 34 shots.
A surge in quantity.
But not so much in quality. Only four of those 34 shots were directed on target, and just one altered the scoreboard.
It’s a potentially an alarming trend for Sporting KC, which travels to Colorado on Wednesday in search of its first victory in seven matches. Sporting KC has attempted more shots than every opponent during its winless streak.
“Hit the target,” coach Peter Vermes said matter-of-factly. “That part will come. I’m not concerned about it. It happens sometimes in this game. You just have to get over it.”
One more resolution has been pushed to the forefront heading into Colorado — grabbing an early lead. Over its six-match winless streak, Sporting KC has led for a combined 25 minutes. That’s it.
The early deficits have often been the product of lapses in the defense. As a result, Sporting KC has spent the majority of the last month chasing the game and pressing opponents who are content to sit back and protect leads.
“I personally think giving up easy goals hurts us being able to score,” midfielder Benny Feilhaber said. “In that Houston game (Saturday), if we didn’t didn’t give up a goal in the 30th minute and we continue to play for the first 20-25 minutes at 0-0 as opposed to (trailing) 1-0, the game is different. I think we get more chances.”
Instead, Sporting KC was shutout Saturday for the second time during its six-game winless streak. It has scored just once in the other four matches, falling to second worst in the Western Conference with 11 goals this season.
Striker Dom Dwyer, who before the season targeted 30 goals, is scoreless in the last five games. He has four goals. But there haven’t exactly been a frenzy of opportunities for the lone striker atop the formation.
“I’m not going to sit here and talk all day about no goals and all this stuff,” Vermes said. “You guys have that more of a big topic than I do. ... That’s the way it goes sometimes in our game. I don’t see it any other way.”
Still, Sporting KC indeed made adjustments to fortify its offense over the past two matches. Wingers Brad Davis and Graham Zusi, who have historically been better equipped to create chances than finish them, are pinching into the middle of the field to attract the attention of defenders who seem keen on containing Dwyer.
The adjustment has produced more shots. It hasn’t yet produced more goals.
“Fans want to see goals. You guys want to talk about how do we create more opportunities,” Feilhaber said. “But I think that is the hardest part of soccer. It’s easier to defend than it is to score. If we clean up the stuff in the back and clean up the opportunities, I think the other stuff will open up.”