Sporting KC looks to extend Western Conference lead against Portland

July 1, 2017

Gerso leads Sporting KC with six MLS goals, all of which came at home.

First-place Sporting Kansas City (8-4-6, 30 points) looks to extend its lead in the Western Conference as it kicks off a three-game homestand Saturday against the Portland Timbers (7-7-4, 25 points) at Children's Mercy Park.

The Timbers are in a three-way tie for second with the Houston Dynamo and FC Dallas, but Dallas has two games in hand and Houston has one compared to the Timbers.

Sporting KC enters the match on a six-game unbeaten streak in all competitions, going 4-0-2 in the month of June. Their unbeaten streak at home now stands at 17 games, dating back to June 2016. They are 6-0-2 at home in 2017.

Portland suffered three losses in its last four games, including a 2-1 defeat against the rival Seattle Sounders in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup fourth round.

Last Saturday, Sporting KC snapped its six-game road winless streak with a 2-1 victory at the LA Galaxy. First-half goals from Roger Espinoza and Ike Opara were enough to hold off the Galaxy. SKC stayed hot on Wednesday in the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16, securing a 2-0 victory over the Dynamo.

Goalkeeper Tim Melia leads the league with nine clean sheets and a 0.67 goals-against average. On offense, Opara, a center back, has four goals in the past six games. Gerso owns a team-best six MLS goals, all of which came at home.

The Timbers are successful at Providence Park in Portland, going 5-1-3, but the road has been much tougher. They are 2-6-1 away from home this season heading into their meeting with Sporting KC.

Diego Valeri and Fanendo Adi have both scored nine goals this season to lead Portland, which is 0-2-1 in its last three games.

"I'm looking forward to it," Timbers defender Vytautas Andriuskevicius said of the match against the top club in the Western Conference table. "Against very good teams we have been stepping up and playing 90 minutes really hard.

"I believe that we are going to go (to Kansas City) and win. Nobody thinks that we are strong to win. This is the time we need to prove."

Sporting KC is 6-2-3 all-time against the Timbers, including a 1-0 win this season at Providence Park on April 15. SKC posted shutouts in six of its last seven regular-season meetings with Portland, including two straight clean sheets at Children's Mercy Park.

Sporting KC will be without numerous starters on Saturday. Striker Dom Dwyer and defenders Graham Zusi and Matt Besler will be with the U.S. Men's National Team in preparation for the CONCACAF Gold cup. Benny Feilhaber remains the only name on Sporting Kansas City's injury report as of Friday. He is questionable with a lower leg injury.

Portland will be without multiple players, as well. Costa Rican David Guzman and Jamaican duo Darren Mattocks and Alvas Powell have joined their national teams for the Gold Cup, while Jack Barmby (calf), Liam Ridgewell (quad), Amobi Okugo (knee) and Diego Chara (hamstring) are out injured. U.S. international midfielder Darlington Nagbe is questionable with a hamstring strain.



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