Analyzing Sporting KC's horrible attacking crisis after 9 games

Nov 28, 2021; Kansas City, MO, USA; Sporting Kansas City forward Johnny Russell.
Nov 28, 2021; Kansas City, MO, USA; Sporting Kansas City forward Johnny Russell. / Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

After the first nine games of the 2022 season, Sporting Kansas City is still struggling to put the ball in the back of the net.

Still yet to score multiple goals in a game, Sporting has been shut out on three occasions. With the production in the final third so limited, it has shown in the results as SKC sits 12th in the Western Conference.

Scoring six goals from the first nine games, it isn't a stretch to tab Sporting KC's lack of offensive production as a crisis. Simply put, they lack teeth in front of goal and they aren't producing enough chances.

Winless from their last four, Peter Vermes' side is the worst in all of MLS with 0.84 expected goals per game and second-worst with an expected goals this season of 7.6. Still, they have maintained 55% possession throughout the season.

Leading the team in goals is midfielder Remi Walter, with two goals. Putting in some good performances, Walter has been a rare bright spot for SKC this year.

Following Walter is Roger Espinoza's lone goal as well as last season's scoring duo Johnny Russell and Daniel Salloi, each adding one goal in the first nine games this year after combining for 32 goals in 2021.

Deadly on the wing in 2021, that duo hasn't been so deadly in 2022. But it wouldn't be fair to shift all the blame on them.

Another key element of the blame must go to the center forward position. That position was supposed to be held down by Alan Pulido, however, his worst of many injuries with SKC will hold him out for almost all, if not all, of 2022. Replacing the record-breaking signing has been Khiry Shelton.

And Shelton has been flat-out bad this year. He has yet to be directly involved in any of the seven goals scored this year. But remember, his direct goal involvement isn't the reason he's with SKC, it's everything away from the ball.

Previously boasting about their record with Shelton on the field, that record this season isn't very good: two wins, four losses and a draw. And yet, he is still the go-to choice for Peter Vermes.

There is a glimmer of hope for Shelton and SKC, however. In the scoreless draw last week against Columbus, Shelton registered his first shot on goal. In first-half extra time, the 28-year-old got his head on the end of a set-piece delivered by Graham Zusi, but his effort was well saved by the keeper.

Entering this season not many, if any, genuinely considered Sporting to be a team contending for the Supporters' Shield. But not many, if any, imagined they would be in such poor shape after nine games as they are now.

With such little depth, it seems like the front three that starts is simply overloaded with pressure. New attacking signings Nikola Vujnovic and Marinos Tzionis have had some moments of promise, but they haven't gotten the job done. The duo is going to have to have a greater impact than they have so far this season.

To get on track, it is going to take a change of mentality within the club. Everyone seems to be on edge. It all starts in the locker room, where players need to loosen up and trust in their abilities.

Defensively, the team hasn't been terrible but does need to find some stability. Offensively, they have been terrible and they have to create more chances.

Until Sporting KC is a genuine threat in the final third, the club is not going to be in any sort of race for a playoff spot.