Sporting Kansas City-Timbers Preview
Sporting Kansas City’s recent U.S. Open Cup championship does little to alter its slide in the MLS season. Extending that slump would help the Portland Timbers’ postseason hopes.
Kansas City will go for just its second win in nine MLS games and first in six road games Saturday night while trying to hold off Portland in the Western Conference standings.
Sporting KC (12-9-9) is riding high off Wednesday’s shootout victory over Philadelphia that clinched the Open Cup title. Coach Peter Vermes hopes the victory carries over to MLS play, where his team is 1-5-2 in its last eight games.
"They earned a tremendous amount of experience today going through this," he told the team’s official website. "All I do know is when the guys get a taste of winning they become that pretty quickly."
Now is a good time if Kansas City hopes to hang on to a postseason spot. The club is in fifth place in the West but only one point ahead of Portland (12-10-8) for the sixth and final playoff berth and two points better than seventh-place San Jose.
Kansas City and Portland close the MLS schedule with four games against West opponents and have one game in hand on both San Jose and eighth-place Houston.
Kansas City has scored 1.0 goal per game during its eight-match slump, far below the 1.7 it averaged through its first 22. Sporting KC has allowed 2.0 goals per game during the skid, compared to 1.1 previously.
Offense might be harder to come by for Kansas City with the loss of forward Krisztian Nemeth to the Hungary national team. Nemeth is third on the team with nine goals, not including one in the Open Cup final, and second with six assists in his first year.
Portland was the only team that failed to score against Kansas City in the last eight games, though it came away with a scoreless draw Sept. 9. The first matchup March 21 resulted in the same score.
Low-scoring games are common for the Timbers, who rank third in the league with 35 goals allowed but are second-to-last with 31 scored. They lead MLS with 12 shutouts.
Portland hasn’t scored in its last two home games but is hosting a Kansas City club which has scored just twice over its past four road matches and is 0-4-1 in the last five.
"We need to score, no question about that," Timbers defender Nat Borchers said. "When you don’t score first it definitely changes things."
Fanendo Adi has 12 goals, the most by a Portland player in the club’s five-year MLS history. Adi scored twice in the Timbers’ 2-1 win over Columbus last Saturday, snapping the team’s four-game winless drought.
The Timbers will be without captain Will Johnson after he underwent surgery Wednesday to remove two screws in his right tibia, which was broken more than a year ago. Johnson, who has not scored or assisted in 12 games, says he hopes to return this season.