Sporting Kansas City-Timbers Preview

Sporting Kansas City has been unbeatable thus far, and its next

opponent isn’t putting much fear into anyone.

Playing its second match of the week, Sporting KC looks to

extend its season-opening winning streak to eight when it visits

the last-place Portland Timbers on Saturday night.

Kansas City is off to the best start by an MLS team since the

1996 Los Angeles Galaxy won their first eight games in regulation,

and their first 12 overall.

Led by an outstanding defense and goaltending from Jimmy

Nielsen, Sporting also showed some offensive power in a 3-1 victory

at Vancouver on Wednesday.

“I don’t have any doubt that they’re the best team in MLS right

now,” Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie said. “I think that would be

very hard to argue.”

Aurelien Collin and Kei Kamara scored while Martin Bonjour was

charged with an own goal in the 51st minute. Kamara’s goal in the

65th minute was his team-leading fourth of the season and second in

three games.

“At the end of the day, I think our players have approached this

fantastically,” coach Peter Vermes said. “I think they’ve stayed

extremely humbled, extremely focused, not getting ahead of

themselves, and they’ve gone out and performed an executed. When

you do that, you give yourself a chance.”

One of the things Kansas City wasn’t happy with was the pressure

Nielsen faced. He came in having recorded three consecutive

shutouts, needing to make only one save during the stretch, but he

faced seven shots on goal from Vancouver.

Nielsen has been critical to Sporting’s hot start. The club

struggled at the beginning of last season and didn’t earn its

seventh victory until Aug. 3, while Nielsen allowed 14 goals in his

first seven starts.

As Sporting makes a quick turnaround in its second road game of

the week, Portland (1-4-1) will look to snap a franchise-worst

four-game losing streak.

The Timbers have gone five games without a win since a

season-opening 3-1 victory over Philadelphia on March 12. They’ve

given up eight goals in the last three, losing 3-1 at Los Angeles

last Saturday.

Portland struck first but had a season-low eight shots. It gave

up the go-ahead score in the 83rd minute and another in stoppage

time.

“We can point to a decision going our way or not going our way

and that could change the game,” coach John Spencer, who shook up

his lines, told the Timbers’ official website. “And right now,

we’re just not getting any breaks.”

Troy Perkins has started all six games, but the play in front of

him isn’t helping. The Galaxy put nine shots on goal, the most he’s

faced this season, and Perkins has made 20 saves – only three off

the lead in MLS.

“We can’t come into the locker room and say ‘Oh we should have

done that, we should have done that,'” he said. “Cause it’s over

with. You can’t change any of it. That’s the thing we’ve been

preaching all week, is show it on the field.”

Portland was outscored 5-2 in losing both games against Sporting

last season.