Sunday, November 2, 2014

Another Season Is In The Books...

Sporting Kansas City has completed its 19th season. It didn't finish in a way that most people would have wanted, least of all the team itself, but it's over. What I'm about to say may piss some people off.

And I don't care.

"If you can't support us when we lose or draw, don't support us when we win." -- Bill Shankly, Liverpool FC manager
 I don't mean that to say you can't criticize the club. I know I do, but there comes a point when some people are taking it way too far.

As an example, I saw someone tweet out the lineup for Thursday's match and, in place of players names, they used unflattering adjectives.

I think I know where it all comes from. As a fan base, Sporting KC fans are incredibly spoiled. The team's been incredibly successful over the past four years, making the playoffs each season since the name change and new stadium opened.

These same people, if they'd had their way, would not have had that same run of success, because manager Peter Vermes would have been fired less than 10 games into the 2011 season. You know, the season where, after Sporting Park opened, the club went from worst to first in the Eastern Conference.

I'm not here to stick up for Peter or the players. They're grown men and can stand up for themselves. What I am here to do is see if I can let a little air out of  some people's egos, make some people be a little more reasonable in their criticism of the club.

There are certain people who would tell you the number one thing the club needs for 2015 is a new goalkeeper. Seriously.

I love Jimmy Nielsen as much as anybody else (more for the personal interactions than anything else), but one thing the White Puma had going for him was a good, stable back line in front of him. It was the same four guys week in and week out.

The same can't be said for any of the men in goal in 2014. Losing two valuable members of that defense to season-ending injuries (Chance Myers and Ike Opara) and one to World Cup play and injuries at times (Matt Besler) is enough to hamper anybody.

And yet, from June 6th to August 1st, they didn't lose, going 6-0-2 in that stretch in league play. They also managed multiple Save of the Week awards, including Jon Kempin's two awards for his first two starts.

Thanks to injuries and national team call-ups, Peter Vermes didn't have the luxury of putting out a set lineup. Guys played out of position and played multiple matches in a row because the club had no choice.

I'm sure people remember the loss against Chicago, in Chicago, where Eric Palmer-Brown had to be the center of a three-man back line. Seventeen years old and called upon to do what some would have called the impossible. He was put in that position because he was all they had left.

Late in the season, some people were crabbing about the mental mistakes guys were making. Here's the thing. They were tired. Actually, not just tired, but exhausted. Several guys were asked to play tons more minutes than they ever had before, some before they were even ready to play a full 90 minutes at a time (Jorge Claros).

Now, guys in the locker room were trying to put a brave face on it, saying they just weren't playing well enough, but they were tired. You could see it in their faces and in the way they played. Thursday's match was the club's fourth in 12 days, including a round trip to San Jose, Costa Rica. I've done that trip and I had a week to rest in between flights.

The guys will now have a couple of months to rest, heal up, and get ready for next season, rather than the few weeks they had going into preseason for 2014. They will also have fewer matches to play in 2015, thanks to not qualifying for the next season of  CCL and not advancing to the quarterfinals in the current one.

Getting guys back from their season-ending injuries will be like getting new players, they've been gone so long. Knowing Matt Besler, he'll have guys working out here in town over the offseason to be ready for training camp in January.

Were there mistakes made? Absolutely. I think the team missed Oriol Rosell more than they thought they would, but hindsight is always 20/20.

Is the team perfect? No, they're human. Certain people seem to think they could have done better under the same circumstances. I'd like to see them try.

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