In the moments following Sporting Kansas City’s home loss, Peter Vermes said, “It’s not good enough, the responsibility is on me.” Truer words have never been spoken. Because it is Vermes’ responsibility and because the results over the last two seasons have been wholly unacceptable, it’s time for the club to fire Vermes. The start to the 2023 season is historically bad and is trending toward a fan mutiny.
I’ve been an ardent Vermes supporter for years. I firmly believe that it’s extremely difficult to compete for cups in this league year in and year out. For as dominant as Seattle was from 2016 to 2020 in the playoffs, 2021 saw Seattle lose in the first round to a RSL team that didn’t record a shot on goal. They missed the playoffs completely in 2022. The reality is that even the good franchises don’t consistently compete for MLS Cup. We’ve evolved past the dynasty eras of DC United and LA Galaxy. The league is based heavily in parity and while some clubs have figured things out (Seattle, Philadelphia, and NYCFC), there are plenty of clubs that are riding a rollercoaster each year.
Peter Vermes has been remarkably consistent during his tenure with Sporting Kansas City. In the last 10 years, the club has missed the playoffs twice. Vermes does not adapt quickly or easily. His game management has often left fans questioning his decision making. He often has struggled to right the ship during the mid-late season lulls. However, Vermes has historically done well to correct weaknesses when given time. After years of having a side that focused on defense and left fans wanting for goals, the club made big signings and set a record for goals scored. After years of first round away games in the MLS Cup playoffs, the club focused on finishing the regular season stronger and playing in front of the home fans.
Kansas City fans should be thanking Peter Vermes for all he’s done for the club. Multiple trophies in the case during his tenure as manager. Years of forward-thinking work as a technical and sporting director – signing a homegrown player from Hungary; one of the earliest adopters of the homegrown rules; and using GAM and TAM to create a roster that was well balanced but loaded with guys who were earning over the DP threshold. Vermes took advantage of the territory rules to scout and sign academy players like Gianluca Busio and Jaylin Lindsey. During his tenure, the club has created a robust affiliate system that has expanded youth soccer throughout the KC Metro area and the Midwest as a whole. Vermes’ success with Sporting Kansas City showed that soccer is a major sport that this city loves.
For as much as Peter Vermes has done for Sporting Kansas City, it’s time to say goodbye. The club missed the playoffs in 2019. They rebounded to win the west during the 2020 COVID season and should have won the west in 2021 as well. But 2022 was abysmal and 2023 has been embarrassing. Sporting KC looks like they’ll miss the playoffs for the 3rd time in 5 seasons. That doesn’t meet the standard that Peter Vermes himself set for the club. The expectations and the bar have been raised. It has become clear that Vermes and Brian Bliss, the club’s technical director, are no longer able to construct a roster that can compete in this league. An over reliance on aging veterans and injury prone players has crippled the roster over the last two seasons. The once promising academy has produced few contributors to the first team. Sporting has signed 20 homegrown players since the 2010. Of those 20, only four have consistently contributed to the first team. Of the six homegrown players signed in 2021, only three remain with the first team. Of those three (Ozzie Cisneros, Jake Davis, and Kayden Pierre), none can make any claim that they’ve impacted the first team. Sporting Kansas City 2, formerly know as the Swope Park Rangers, made consecutive USL championship appearances in 2016 and 2017 and made the conference semi-finals in 2018. In the years that have followed, the team’s performances have deteriorated, finishing 36th, 23rd, and 30th overall in the USL, and 15th in the first year of MLS Next Pro. The second team has shown limited success in preparing players for the first team, making the club’s talk about the “pro player pathway” more lip service than realized vision.
The hard reboot needed by this club requires us to say goodbye to more than Vermes himself. His vision and structure need to evolve and need a fresh set of eyes. Brian Bliss, Kerry Zavagnin, Zoran Savic, Joey Harty, and Kurt Andrews all need to go. Yes, I named virtually everyone on the technical staff. I’m not thrilled to suggest that people should lose their jobs, but for the next manager and sporting director to succeed, they need to be able to start with a clean slate.
Peter Vermes is a Sporting Legend and a Kansas City Icon. Some of the best moments of my adult life took place at Children’s Mercy Park. But it’s time to say good. For all these reasons, I’m #PVOut.