Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes did everything short of bringing an excuse rolodex to Friday morning’s news conference.
His explanations for Sporting KC’s home scoring drought — which spans 325 minutes in MLS play entering this evening’s match against the Columbus Crew — all seemed valid. They were also quite numerous.
Vermes cited tired legs, a lack of available training days, a jam-packed schedule and opponents’ adjustments as the primary reasons for the scoreless streak. Eventually, though, he blamed the weather. More specifically, he explained, 100-plus degree days have prevented Sporting KC from launching into full attack mode.
He was reminded Friday that today’s weather also calls for temperatures reaching 100 degrees.
The comment forced a smile from Vermes.
“No,” he responded with a purposeful smirk. “It’s going to be pretty nice tomorrow.”
Sporting KC plans to return to its attacking roots when it is host to Columbus at 7:30 tonight at Livestrong Sporting Park.
The timing couldn’t be better. Sporting KC, 11-6-4, will need to make more concerted efforts to score against the Crew, 7-7-4. The two teams are tied for the league low in goals allowed with 19, which equates to a shade more than one goal against the Crew per game.
Sporting KC, which is one point behind Eastern Conference leader New York, left Columbus with a 2-0 victory on July 14. The two-goal margin of victory marked just the second time all season the Crew has lost by more than one goal.
“(It’s) a team that is tough to break down defensively,” defender Matt Besler said. “They haven’t scored a ton of goals, but their style is to make sure they don’t give a whole lot away. They do a good job of that.”
After Friday’s training session, Vermes emphasized the need to speed up tonight’s game in every aspect — a point the club stressed during its early-season success. To prevent exhaustion, the team tinkered its style during a streak that included 12 matches in 38 days.
After a weeklong break interrupted only by an exhibition match against Montpellier on Tuesday, Sporting KC expects to have fresher legs when it returns to MLS play tonight.
“What we’ve talked about is getting back to where we were early in the season,” Besler said. “We have to drive the game. When the ball goes out, we’re going to get it back in quick. (We want) quick free kicks. Just really going after them.”
Even more responsibility will be on the offense tonight for a team missing yet another defender. Sporting KC announced Thursday that defender Aurelien Collin will miss one to two weeks because of two facial fractures he suffered during Wednesday’s MLS All-Star Game against Chelsea.
Vermes declined to say who would step into the starting lineup for Collin, but Lawrence Olum seems to be the likely choice.
Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen expects Collin to come back sooner rather than later.
“I don’t expect him to miss more than a game,” Nielsen said. “He’s as tough of a guy as we have on this team. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him out there next week.”