Sporting KC will try to pad its first-place lead against Portland

Gone are the Portland Timbers’ six-game winning streak and unblemished home record.

But the Timbers are still unbeaten in nine of their past 10 MLS games as they prepare to host first-place Sporting Kansas City on Saturday at Providence Park in Portland.

Portland (6-3-3) ran its unbeaten streak to seven when Diego Valeri made a 57th-minute penalty kick to lift the Timbers to a 1-1 home draw with the LA Galaxy.

“I felt it was one of those types of games where you have to work very hard,” Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said after the match. “(The game) didn’t have the fluidity that we wanted.

“For me, the most important part was that we were able to come back and get a point.”

Portland returned to its recent winning ways with a midweek 2-0 win over San Jose in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup.

Savarese said he was pleased with the team’s performance.

“We showed some maturity with a lot of the young guys,” he said after the match. “We kept the ball. We knew when to move it, when to go forward. I thought it was a great performance.”

The Timbers will need a similar performance to overcome SKC and another challenge: playing without suspended midfielder Diego Chara.

In the past three years, Portland is 0-11-6 when Chara, who will miss Saturday’s match because of yellow card accumulation after drawing one Saturday against the Galaxy, is not in the lineup.

The Timbers have been outscored by 21 goals in those 17 games.

“The reality is that Chara is a very important player for us,” Savarese said, according to the (Portland) Oregonian. “He’s done very well and he’s very important, but these situations are going to happen.”

With David Guzman away with the Costa Rican national team, midfielders Cristhian Paredes and Andres Flores, both in their first seasons in Portland, will try to pick up the slack.

Sporting Kansas City (8-2-4) heads to Portland off a 4-1 thrashing of Minnesota United on Sunday.

Kansas City blew open an early 1-1 tie despite missing two of their three starting forwards (Johnny Russell and Khiry Shelton).

“They make it really, really difficult for the opposition,” Minnesota coach Adrian Heath said of SKC’s central-midfield dominance. “They play nearly a five and a five. Their front five push and press. And if your quality is not good enough to break that initial press — and it’s strange, because every time we did, we were dangerous in the first half. We had two or three really good breakaways.

“The final ball wasn’t particularly good, but if you’re going to come here and get a result, when you have your moments you have to make them. Because they just keep coming and they keep coming.”

Kansas City is 3-1-2 away from home this season and has the best goal differential (plus-14) in MLS.