Timbers-Sporting Kansas City Preview
Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes believes goals will come for his team as the season progresses, which could be dangerous for the rest of the league given its stingy defense.
After its long shutout streak came to an end, Kansas City looks to bounce back Saturday night against a visiting Portland Timbers team riding a five-game unbeaten streak.
Eastern Conference-leading Sporting KC (4-2-2) had won three straight and blanked each opponent during a five-game unbeaten run before last Saturday's 2-0 loss at Los Angeles. That ended a 545-minute shutout streak, fifth-longest in MLS history.
Kansas City's defense is tied with Montreal and Seattle for the fewest goals allowed despite having played two more games.
Things haven't gone as well on offense, not that Vermes seems to mind. Sporting KC has netted four goals over its last six games, getting shut out three times.
"I would say that (the lack of offense is) fine, because it's not anything I'm really concerned about," Vermes told the team's official website. "If I was, I'd be trying to figure out a lot of different things, and I'm not."
Kansas City's success also has come without a number of key contributors that led the team to the East's regular-season title last year. Forwards Teal Bunbury (torn ACL) and Jacob Peterson (shoulder) haven't played, and 2012 leading scorer Kei Kamara is on loan in England until at least May 6 and may not return to the team afterward.
"Do you want all of your players available all season? Sure," Vermes said. "But we're in a good place on the table at the moment, and that's the point of all this - trying to keep yourself in a good position, in a good striking distance for everything."
Portland is doing just that, off to a good start in 2013 after a disappointing 8-16-10 campaign last year that included the mid-season firing of coach John Spencer.
Under new coach Caleb Porter, the Timbers (2-1-4) are the last MLS team without a road loss, having earned three draws. It took until August for them to earn their third road point last season, when they went 1-12-4 away from home.
"What's even more impressive is we're not happy with the draws," Porter told the team's official website. "These guys, no matter if we're home or away or who we're playing, they believe we can get a result."
Portland, though, is hoping for more victories. Diego Valeri scored in the 58th minute Sunday, but San Jose netted a goal in the second minute of stoppage time for a 1-all draw.
"In the end, the perspective is positive that we get a point, but we were a minute away from getting three points," Porter said. "When you're so close, it makes it a little tougher."
Kansas City has won two of the three all-time meetings.