Portland visits Sporting KC on Saturday

Another pivotal Western Conference clash awaits as second-place Sporting Kansas City (11-6-6, 39 points) returns home to battle the fifth-place Portland Timbers (10-5-7, 37 points) on Saturday night at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas.

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. and a limited number of tickets remain available via SeatGeek.com.

FOX Sports Kansas City Plus and FOX Sports Midwest Plus will air three hours of live coverage beginning at 7 p.m., while listeners can catch the action on Sports Radio 810 WHB (English) and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM (Spanish).

The game will also stream live on FOX Sports GO for viewers of FOX Sports Midwest and on ESPN+ for fans elsewhere across the United States. The Sporting KC Uphoria mobile app will provide additional in-game updates.

Sporting KC has enjoyed an excellent start to the month of August, posting consecutive shutout road wins over the Houston Dynamo and Los Angeles Football Club. Coupled with two straight defeats for leaders FC Dallas, Sporting KC is now just three points out of first place going into the weekend.

Sixteen-year-old Gianluca Busio played beyond his years in a 1-0 defeat of Houston on Aug. 4, assisting Diego Rubio’s game-winner, before Rubio ran the show in last Saturday’s 2-0 win against LAFC as Sporting KC became the first visiting team to triumph at Banc of California Stadium.

Rubio set up Gerso Fernandes’ early strike and Ilie Sanchez doubled the lead with a second-half penalty kick. Recently acquired forward Krisztian Nemeth also made his highly anticipated return as a 76th-minute substitute, having scored 16 goals for Sporting KC during the 2015 season.

Nemeth, 29, bolsters a Sporting KC attack that has produced 41 goals in 23 regular season matches, already surpassing 2017’s total of 40 goals. Scottish newcomer Johnny Russell and fellow forward Daniel Salloi have led the way with seven goals and six assists each in MLS play, while striker Diego Rubio ranks first in MLS with four goals as a substitute.

The Timbers began the 2018 campaign with five straight away games that yielded just two points, but caught fire from mid-April onward with first-year head coach Giovanni Savarese in charge. Portland went a club-record 15 regular season games unbeaten, racking up 10 wins and five ties, before suffering a 2-1 home loss to Vancouver last Saturday.

Portland then traveled cross-country to the new Audi Field and fell 4-1 at the hands of D.C. United on Wednesday, receiving their lone goal from Samuel Armenteros.

Savarese’s side will have just two full days of rest going into Saturday’s contest at Children’s Mercy Park, where Portland owns a 1-2-2 all-time record with their lone victory coming in April 2013.

Armenteros, a 2018 newcomer who scored twice against Sporting KC in a preseason friendly on Feb. 24, has eight MLS goals this season after spending the first decade of his professional career in Europe.

Reigning MLS MVP Diego Valeri remains an all-important talisman for the Timbers, leading the team in both goals (nine) and assists (10), while defender Larrys Mabiala anchors the backline and ranks among the MLS leaders in clearances and interceptions.

Since 2014, nine regular-season meetings between Sporting KC and Portland have produced just nine goals combined. During this nine-game stretch, Sporting KC owns a 4-1-4 record and seven shutouts. Melia has particularly relished the fixture, boasting a 0.20 goals against average and a 95.7 save percentage in five regular-season appearances versus Portland.

These teams most recently met on June 9, scrapping to a scoreless draw at Providence Park that saw Melia and opposing goalkeeper Jeff Attinella make four saves each. The last time they squared off at Children’s Mercy Park, Valeri and Salloi traded goals in a 1-1 draw on July 1, 2017.

– Story from Sporting KC

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