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Sporting KC’s goal in 2022: End 4-year trophy drought

Matt Besler
Posted at 8:00 AM, Mar 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-11 09:00:37-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s been four seasons since Sporting Kansas City added a trophy to its collection.

From 2012 to 2017, the club won four trophies — the 2013 MLS Cup and three Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup titles (2012, 2015, 2017) — but that river of championships has dried up in recent years.

“I felt that we were capable in (2018) and, (2019), I thought we had a really good team, but we just got plagued by injuries,” Manager and Sporting Director Peter Vermes said. “(2020), again I thought we were going to make a run. Last year, we were playing some of the best soccer that, as a coach, we have ever played I believe.”

Those seasons all ended without a major trophy, though Sporting KC did finish atop the Western Conference regular-season standings in 2018 and 2020.

“I made a commitment when I took over as the coach that my objective for the ownership group was that I believe my role and responsibility is centered around making the team competitive, so at the end of the year we can be competing for something,” said Vermes, the longest-tenured coach with one team in MLS history. “We’re in the mix, right. We’re in that group that’s always competing for something. I think, for the most part, we’ve done that every year except for one, so that’s going to be our continued priority.”

The current four-year trophy drought is tied for the second-longest drought in club history, but it also comes with a sense of urgency.

“Every year, that’s a focus,” forward Dániel Sallói said. “I’ve come to the realization that it’s very difficult to win this league after being here for many years. You can have amazing regular seasons then just fall short at the end. Every sport in America, I feel is like that. Maybe we could have been champions many times in Europe, but we have to find a way to have better playoff runs.”

The truncated nature of the 2022 MLS season, which lops off the last three weeks of the regular season to accommodate the 2022 FIFA World Cup, adds another wrinkle for the upcoming quest to claim a new trophy.

With the World Cup slated to start on Nov. 21 in Qatar, the MLS regular season will end Oct. 9 with the MLS Cup set to be played Nov. 5 — a month earlier than is typical.

Vermes expects the unique schedule to test Sporting KC’s depth more than most seasons, especially once Open Cup reaches the round of 32 and the club joins the fray for its first match on May 10 or 11.

“Cutting the schedule down by a month with the congestion based on the World Cup and that coming in the wintertime, I just think that to keep the team fresh we’re going to need some player rotation in that area of the field and to keep the quality up,” Vermes said. “The great thing is we added quality.”

Sporting KC has added seven new players — defenders Kortne Ford, Logan Ndenbe, Ben Sweat and Robi Volleder, midfielder Uri Rosell and forwards Marinos Tzionis and Nikola Vujnović — for the 2022 season and all have finally arrived in Kansas City after Vujnović received his visa earlier this week.

“This team, for sure, has real quality in it,” Vermes said. "I think we’ve made some additions in some places on the field that were necessary, and I think once we have the full complement of all the players within the group and sort of firing and feeling good about those concepts and how we play, I think there’s no doubt that we’ll be a competitive team going into this year.”

Despite losing center forward Alan Pulido to a season-ending knee injury, Sporting KC is the only MLS team that returns two players, Sallói and fellow winger Johnny Russell, who scored at least 15 goals with at least eight assists last season.

Let’s just say it would be unwise to bet against Sporting KC making the playoffs and having a chance to paint the wall again.

After all, during the last decade, the club boasts the sixth-highest win percentage (.564) among all MLS teams.

Three of the teams with a better win percentage are expansion teams, which didn’t field teams for all 10 years, and Sporting KC is third-highest among non-expansion teams during that span.

Among MLS teams that have been around for at least a decade, only the Seattle Sounders FC (.584) and New York Red Bulls (.578) have a higher percentage than Sporting KC.

MLS win percentage, 2012-21

MLS win percentage 2012-21
TeamWin %Joined league (if after 2012)
Los Angeles FC.5972018
Seattle Sounders FC.584
Nashville SC.5792020
New York Red Bulls.578
Atlanta United FC.5722017
New York City FC.5662015
Sporting Kansas City.564
Portland Timbers.538
FC Dallas.529
Los Angeles Galaxy.521
Real Salt Lake.518
New England Revolution.517
Columbus Crew.511
Philadelphia Union.498
Vancouver Whitecaps FC.491
Minnesota United FC.4782017
DC United.476
Toronto FC.470
San Jose Earthquakes.465
Colorado Rapids.461
Orlando City SC.4602015
CF Montréal.451
Houston Dynamo.450
Chicago Fire.439
Inter Miami CF.4042020
Austin FC.3242021
FC Cincinnati.253

Next up, Sporting KC (1-1-0) plays at the Colorado Rapids (1-1-0) at 8 p.m. Saturday, a game that can be seen locally on 38 The Spot.

The Rapids are unbeaten in their last 17 home matches (10-0-7) and unbeaten in their last eight home matches against Sporting KC at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (4-0-4).