Sporting KC looks to shut down prolific Timbers offensive attack

Two stoppage-time goals when Sporting KC was nursing at least a two-goal lead are the only times that a shot has gotten past goalkeeper Tim Melia this season.
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Two of the clubs that are best at what they do square off Saturday night at Providence Park in Portland, Ore.

The Portland Timbers, owners of the highest-scoring offense in MLS, play host to Sporting Kansas City, tied for the MLS’ best-scoring defense with FC Dallas.

Portland, which also owns MLS’ best point total with 13 points (4-1-1), has scored 16 goals in its first six games, nearly three goals per game. The Timbers have not lost at home, going 2-0-1 in three games at Providence Park.

“It’s great to be off to a great start,” Portland coach Caleb Porter said. “We’re banking some points, which is huge.”

Meanwhile, Sporting Kansas City (2-0-3, nine points) has not allowed a goal in regulation in its first five matches. Two stoppage-time goals when Sporting KC was nursing at least a two-goal lead are the only times that a shot has gotten past goalkeeper Tim Melia.

Portland is led by Diego Valeri and Fanendo Adi with five goals apiece. Valeri also leads the Timbers with three assists, followed by Darlington Nagbe, who has two.

“You know you’re going to get goals out of Valeri and Adi,” Porter said. “You need goals out of your big players. But going back to 2013 and 2015 when we played well, we got goals out of different positions and different guys.”

Nagby is looking forward to facing Sporting’s defense.

“It’s going to be a great matchup, two teams that want to be on the ball,” he said. “They’re a good defensive team, but we’ve been attacking well.”

Sporting is hoping that tradition holds in this matchup, as the boys in blue are 3-2-1 all time in Providence Park, including clean sheets in three of the last four matches. Sporting KC has allowed just five goals in its six regular-season matches.

“We’re in a good spot right now in the way that we’re playing and the way that we’re reading each other,” Sporting KC’s Matt Besler said. “I feel like in the right moments, everybody’s making plays. Each guy’s stepping up, goalkeeper included.

“Portland is extremely dangerous going forward. They always have four or five guys who can beat you on the break, so keeping the ball is huge against them.”

Because of Sporting’s stout defense, Melia is just eighth in MLS in saves with 15. But his 83.3 saves percentage is second in the league and his two goals allowed leads all goalkeepers (minimum four games played).

“The organization has been great,” Melia said after Sunday’s 3-1 victory over Colorado. “We were keeping possession in the back better in this game than we did in the previous games, so I think there are a lot of positives moving forward.”