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Three questions with No Other Pod about Sporting KC

Will this be the last meeting of Vermes v. Schmetzer? Answering three other questions for No Other Pod is Jimmy Mack.

Last Updated
4 min read
Courtesy Joe Nicholson and USAToday

For a period of time the rivalry between the Seattle Sounders and Sporting Kansas City was defined by an Open Cup final where only one keeper was punished for leaving the line early.

The two teams seemed to both be contenders for the Western Conference title for years. Peter Vermes and Brian Schmetzer are two of the longest-tenured coaches in MLS because they win games, trophies and are the defining coaches for their organizations.

Saturday's upcoming meeting (5:30 pm PDT / MLS Season Pass) exists in a different state. Both teams have fanbases questioning their longtime coaches. Vermes is leading a team that is in the cellar of the West thanks to a 7-match losing streak. Seattle was predicted to be the top of the West, but instead are struggling to get above the soft orange playoff line.

Will this be the last meeting of Vermes v. Schmetzer? Answering three other questions for No Other Pod is Jimmy Mack.

SaH: How close is Peter Vermes to joining Gonzalo Pineda in being let go midseason?

NOP: That probably depends who you ask! If you talk to a very vocal portion of the SKC fanbase, he'll be axed at any moment. And to be fair, as Mike Kuhn pointed out on Twitter, Peter Vermes is the only coach of a team that has been in the bottom 10 of PPG since 2022 that still has a job. The biggest question mark about the situation, though, is ownership. They have been radio silent all year long regarding Vermes' job status (or about the team's performance in general, for that matter), and considering they signed him to a contract extension through 2028 ahead of 2023, it would not be cheap to buy him out of the 4.5 years he has left.

Vermes has been the main voice in terms of all soccer-related decisions within the club for more than a decade. If/when Sporting KC does move on from him, it will likely kick off a multi-year re-shaping of the club, which is why ownership is probably taking their time to decide if that's really the direction they want to go. I have a hard time believing they would actually make a change midseason, especially with SKC still alive in the US Open Cup. However, if the team bombs out of the Open Cup and the lack of results continues, they may not have a choice.

This author remembers the last time it seemed that Vermes was on the ropes. He proceeded to beat Seattle 2-1. Sporting went winless in 10 to start 2023 prior to that date.

SaH: Sporting gives up more quality shots than any other team in the league. Is this a failure of personnel or system?

NOP: Yes. Next question.

In all honesty, it's hard to separate the two at this point. Vermes is so committed to his possession-based high work rate 4-3-3 that it's nearly impossible to envision a different system while he's in charge. However, given Vermes also has control of the roster, it also falls under his responsibility that the current roster makeup doesn't suit the typical SKC 4-3-3 system. Sporting's preferred starting XI is among the oldest (if not the oldest) in terms of average age across MLS. The three DPs of striker Alan Pulido, winger Daniel Salloi, and midfielder Nemanja Radoja have failed to live up to their billing as DP players (though both Salloi and Radoja could be bought down). The midfield lacks depth, and while the backline is athletic, they routinely make silly mental errors that lead to quality shots for opponents. When you combine a relatively rigid system with an old roster that lacks depth, it's not a great recipe for success.

Sporting KC allows an xG per shot of 0.14 and has the 8th worst non-penalty xGA per WhoScored.

SaH: Léo Chú should be available to play, but quite unlikely to start. Can Seattle use similar tactics that caused their success last spring in KC?

NOP: The good news for Sporting KC is Ben Sweat is not on the roster anymore. His 63rd minute red card last year when Seattle visited Kansas City certainly did not help things. The bad news is Sporting was already down 2-1 at the time of the red card, with both goals having been assisted by Léo Chú. Jake Davis has since been converted to RB and has been largely solid over the past year at the position, save for the occasional error born from inexperience.

Regardless, Sporting KC have the fourth-worst goals allowed to expected goals allowed (GA-xGA) ratio at -8.07. And the strengths/weaknesses shown via WhoScored don't inspire much defensive confidence. Seattle should be able to use their speed and skill to put Sporting's back line under pressure and create numerous quality chances throughout the night.

Davis is 22, with 47 total appearances. This year he's started 15 matches with 14 at right back. WhoScored considers him weak in the air.

Check out No Other Pod to listen to Jimmy's previews and reviews of Sporting KC.