The ‘Snowball Effect’: Are Sporting Kansas City’s Struggles Over? 

The ‘snowball effect’, according to Britannica, is “a situation in which one action or event causes many other actions or events”. Sports have seen many of these situations, where one moment can change the course of the season. This could mean turning it in the right or positive direction, but it could also mean catastrophe. 

For Sporting Kansas City, an April 7th draw with the Portland Timbers was one of those moments. Sporting heading into halftime held a three-goal lead over the visiting Timbers, a perfect start to the match. However, KC then proceeded to give up three collective goals in the second half and settle for a draw. An embarrassing moment could have been just that, but then the snowball began to fall. 

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After the April 7th match, it would be almost two months later before they successfully grabbed three points and a win. The troubles began on April 20th, when SKC hosted St. Louis for a rivalry matchup that ‘packed the house’ at Children’s Mercy Park. Even though Sporting trailed at halftime, they were able to fight back and score goals in the 65th and 77th minute giving Kansas City the 3-2 lead. Sporting looked content with the three points they were about to add to their table, but in stoppage time St. Louis struck with a goal from Tomas Totland sending SKC into a whirlwind. After that match, SKC Manager Peter Vermes spoke to the media saying that Sporting was playing “entertaining games” and seemed not to be concerned with where the club was at, but that mindset couldn’t stay around for long with what seemed to be a summary of the issues that SKC was needing to address. 

The notion that Kansas City was playing good soccer, but just not coming up with the points to defend it became a common thought for fans, but this was the breaking point. Alan Pulido, following the loss, said, “It’s frustrating because we gave everything we had”. When he was asked what adjustments needed to be made, he simply said, “If it was so easy, we would change it” acknowledging that, “details are important, but it’s not good enough. You can’t drop points when you have the lead.”

Sandwiched in this stretch was the loss to the Houston Dynamo. Sporting trailed after the half, but was able to even it up in the second when Daniel Salloi sailed a goal in to tie it up in the 61st minute. Things seemed to be changing for the struggling club, but then disaster struck. An embarrassing defensive sequence allowed Houston Forward Ibrahim Aliyu to knock in the game-clinching goal and send Kansas City fans home asking the question, “When will this team figure it out?”

Sporting answered the question with a, “we are not sure” after they dropped the next four MLS matches to Austin, Portland, Vancouver, and Minnesota. It was not the answer the fans, players, or coaches wanted. Still, ownership seems to believe in the team and the staff they have in place saying that Peter Vermes was not going anywhere and would stay in his position.

The flailing club needed desperately to turn things around and the opportunity came with a match at home against the Seattle Sounders. Entering the game, Kansas City had the lowest winning percentage in the entire MLS and desperately was seeking a win. Sporting at one point trailed by a goal, but answered in the 19th minute with SKC Striker Johnny Russell knotting the game up at one. The match remained there until the 85th minute when, after a series of events, Alenis Vargas was able to give Sporting KC the lead. Fans sat on the edge of their seats for the waning moments of the match following the goal, to see if SKC could finally finish off a win. 

They were able to and now the goal seems to start another snowball. This time, however, Sporting hopes it won’t be anything like the last one. They want this match to begin a ‘snowball effect’ of competitive soccer that helps them move up on the table. As Sporting continues their season against the LA Galaxy on June 15th, it will be extremely interesting to see whether or not their new snowball begins to come together, or if their old one continues to haunt them. 

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