Changes were at hand for the Kansas City Wizards in 2011. Changes which started with their name - from Wizards to Sporting Kansas City - and included a new stadium, new colors, and - most importantly - new players.
"We needed to change the culture and unfortunately, when you're changing culture you have to change people," manger Peter Vermes said. "The mechanisms to achieve that aren't the easiest." Newly removed from an interim tag, Vermes was placed in charge of all soccer operations for Sporting. He faced the daunting task of taking years of mediocrity and replacing it with the same type of quality that won an MLS Cup in 2000, when a younger Vermes anchored the Kansas City defense.
"I knew going into this, it was going to take some time and what we have now is a very strong core group of players," Vermes said. "We've laid out our expectations and this group meets that standard daily. That's the crux of our success."
Success that Vermes' team realized almost immediately. Sporting posted a 13-9-12 record and reached the eastern conference finals in 2011. It was the farthest Sporting had gone in the playoffs in eight years. Following that success this year with a trip to MLS Cup is an attainable achievement, but Vermes is focused on the path, not the destination.
"We have small goals that we are trying to achieve right now, in the short term," Vermes said. "That will lead to big goals and one of the biggest is consistency. If we're consistent, we will put ourselves in a position to compete for those big goals."