A marquee Western Conference matchup awaits on Saturday as unbeaten Sporting Kansas City (2-0-3, 9 points) visits the first-place Portland Timbers (4-1-1, 13 points) at 9:30 p.m.
FOX Sports Kansas City Plus will air three hours of live coverage at Providence Park beginning at 9 p.m., while FOX Sports Kansas City will also broadcast the match upon conclusion of the Kansas City Royals baseball game. Fans can listen live on ESPN 99.3 FM (English) and La Grande 1340 AM (Spanish), and mobile users can follow the action on FOX Sports GO and Sporting KC Uphoria.
This weekend’s showdown at Providence Park pits two teams who have experienced early success via contrasting means.
Sporting Kansas City has stifled opponents with just two goals allowed through five games – both coming in second-half stoppage time – while the Timbers have scored a league-best 16 times behind the formidable likes of Fanendo Adi and Diego Valeri, who are tied for second in MLS with five goals apiece.
Sporting Kansas City alleviated concerns of an offensive draught on Sunday as Seth Sinovic, Gerso and Dom Dwyer found the back of the net during a dominant 3-1 victory over the Colorado Rapids.
Sinovic’s early strike was the first regular season goal of his eight-year MLS career, highlighting a standout performance in which he also assisted Dwyer’s late tally. Gerso also bagged his first goal in a Sporting Kansas City uniform, the designated player running onto Roger Espinoza’s through ball and poking low past Colorado goalkeeper Tim Howard just before the hour mark.
The Timbers are coming off a 3-1 triumph of their own, dispatching the Philadelphia Union as Adi became the club’s all-time leading scorer with his 46th regular season goal. The road win saw Portland erase an early deficit when U.S. international Darlington Nagbe restored parity in the 32nd minute and Roy Miller fired the visitors ahead in the 66th. Adi buried a late penalty to seal the result and rewrite Portland’s record books.
Led by head coach Caleb Porter, the Timbers are off to their best six-game start in team history. The influential Valeri has grabbed headlines with five goals and three assists, while offseason addition Sebastian Blanco has added class to an already impressive midfield. In defense, center back Lawrence Olum – formerly a five-year member of Sporting KC – is off to strong start with his new club, having started all six matches.
Portland is amidst an excellent run of form at hallowed Providence Park, the site of a 110-game sellout streak. Porter’s men have won 15 of their last 21 home fixtures and enter Saturday on an eight-game home unbeaten run (7-0-1). The Timbers have scored in each of those 21 contests, averaging 2.3 goals per game over that stretch.
As potent as Portland has been in recent weeks, Sporting Kansas City has been equally stingy along the backline. In addition to conceding just twice, Peter Vermes’ side has notched three straight road shutouts dating back to last year, one shy of tying the club’s regular season record.
The 2016 head-to-head series produced a pair of home victories: Sporting KC won 1-0 on July 31 at Children’s Mercy Park before Portland prevailed 3-0 seven days later. Prior to the defeat last August, Sporting KC had posted shutouts in three straight regular season visits to Providence Park. Two of those three clean sheets were credited to goalkeeper Tim Melia, whose 0.40 goals against average leads MLS.
Midfielder Benny Feilhaber, who has missed Sporting KC’s last two matches with a thigh strain, was officially removed from the club’s injury report this week and will be available for selection. On the opposite side, Portland center back is questionable as he continues to recover from a foot injury that has sidelined him for five straight games.
Saturday’s meeting is notably a rematch of the epic 2015 Western Conference Knockout Round clash in which Portland won an 11-round penalty shootout – the longest shootout in MLS postseason history – after a gripping 2-2 draw.
– Story from Sporting KC