Sporting Kansas City “competed” in something called the Leagues Cup Tuesday night against Mexican League team Club Leon.
Sporting was facing its seventh game in 22 days and manager Peter Vermes decided to go with a mostly young lineup in the game. Vermes said that he made the decision to go with the young lineup to not risk injuries with his regular players after all they have played recently. He’s willing to take the blame for the 6-1 loss.
And Vermes should take the blame. It is completely his fault. He makes the decisions about who plays and who doesn’t. He decided to not sit guys in MLS games leading up to the competition in order to play this game more competitively.
Vermes always talks about competing in every game they play. Fans attending the game would expect nothing different this time, but he chose to not compete in this one. If that was the case, why didn’t Sporting tell their fans in advance that they weren’t trying, and offer refunds to people who might decide to get their money back instead of watching the disaster that unfolded?
Sporting did not try to win. Throwing players on the field is not by default trying. What Sporting did Tuesday looked like what we refer to in other sports as tanking. Yes, the team put forth players to compete, but they never had any expectation of being competitive. They didn’t care if they won or not. If they cared, we would have seen Alan Pulido from the beginning. If they cared, Tim Melia would have been in goal. If they cared, Johnny Russell would have been on the field and so on. Look at the team they will put on the field in the playoffs. That will show you what they team looks like when they are trying to win. And it will look nothing like Tuesday night.
If MLS wants to try to raise the perception of the league and compete with the Mexican League, it has to require its clubs to try to compete in these matchups. Sporting clearly let the league down.
And why couldn’t Sporting compete in this game? Why not rest some of their regulars staggered in games leading up to and after this match? Is Sporting expected to compete fully in matches outside of MLS play or is their only priority league games? Or should they figure out a way to be competitive in all of the games?
Worst of all is that Sporting charged admission to a game in which they didn’t even try. They took money from their fans without any intention of competing. This doesn’t sound like the Sporting organization we have thought so highly of for several years now. Maybe we draw the line here. Maybe if you are charging people money they worked hard to earn, maybe that’s when you should try to win. Just a thought.
I understand there is a decision that has to be made. I understand it’s not easy. And I get that the league is important. But this isn’t an American sport where the only thing that matters is league play. This is soccer. This is a sport in which players you pay good money leave the team for a couple of weeks at a time throughout the season to go play for somebody else. Why? Hell if I know. This is a sport in which international play is important. That’s what MLS wants to do. They changed from playing soccer in an American way years ago to playing like the rest of the world, so they could compete with the rest of the world. That’s what Sporting signed up for. That’s what Peter Vermes signed up for. That’s what both failed at Tuesday night.
This is a disappointing chapter in Sporting’s history. It’s a disappointing chapter in Peter Vermes’ coaching career. And hopefully it’s the last time the club makes this kind of mistake in judgement.