‘Things have to change’: Here’s what Sporting KC’s captain has to say about 0-3-2 start

Sporting Kansas City’s season has not started the way that the club or its fans had hoped.

Sporting is winless in its first five matches and has just two goals to show for the second-most shots — and shots on target — in Major League Soccer.

Concerns are mounting that this start feels all too similar to the beginning of the 2022 season, when Sporting started 2-5-0 and finished 11-16-7, missing the playoffs. By the time Sporting found its footing later in the ‘22 season, the damage had already been done.

“We do have a lot of time left this season,” Sporting KC captain Johnny Russell said. “There’s a lot of games left, but we can’t get into that mindset where we feel we’ve got time because, as we saw last year, time runs out very quickly in this league.”

At the same time, Russell doesn’t want worries about where this season is headed to get out of hand.

“Now’s not the time to panic,” he said. “But we have to realize the situation we’re in, and things have to change.”

Sporting’s woes this week sound a lot like last week’s: Alan Pulido, Gadi Kinda and Dany Rosero have yet to see the field for a match in 2023, while Russell, Nemanja Radoja and Tim Leibold have been limited.

“Let’s not sugarcoat it: it’s a tough moment we’re in right now,” Russell said. “But I’m positive it won’t last.

“It’s up to the guys who are here training and who go on the field to put it right. It’s about keeping the morale high and just making sure we go in the game as prepared as possible.”

Manager Peter Vermes issued a challenge to his players after the debacle of Saturday’s home loss to the Seattle Sounders.

“It’s not a time where the coach has to wind you up,” Vermes said after that 4-1 defeat. “You should already have that inside you.”

The level of intensity has been high during training this week. Sporting KC’s newest acquisition, Rosero, finally arrived in Kansas City over the weekend. Kinda’s involvement in training has taken another positive step and Pulido continues to get sharper each week.

But intense training means little without follow-through on game day.

“I think it’s always easy to have a response where you pick it up after a game doesn’t go well,” Vermes said. “But it all depends on how you perform in your next game.”

Vermes scoffed at the notion this weekend’s match at the Philadelphia Union (Saturday, 6:30 p.m.) — the club’s sixth game of the season — is a must-win, saying the only must-win is a final. But it will no doubt be a challenge.

Philly was last year’s MLS Cup and Supporter’s Shield runner-up, and until recently the Union were riding a 24-game home unbeaten streak.

Russell stands firm in his belief the best is yet to come for Sporting KC.

“If you watch us train, then you wouldn’t think we’re in the position we’re in right now,” Russell said. “It’s all good doing it here, but we have to do it in games.”