Two second-half defensive lapses by Sporting KC allowed the Portland Timbers to overcome an early Sporting Kansas City goal and win the Western Conference finals Thursday evening at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas. The final score was 3-2 in Portland’s favor.
Forward Daniel Salloi opened the scoring in the 20th minute. Diego Rubio earned the assist, crossing the ball from the right side to the far post where Salloi collected it. Salloi’s goal capped a flurry of early activity that saw Kansas City put four shots on goal in the first 15 minutes.
Salloi put the ball in the net again in the 24th minute, but it was disallowed for obstruction of the goalkeeper. Another Salloi shot in first-half stoppage time went just over the crossbar.
Portland erased Sporting Kansas City’s advantage in the 52nd minute. Forward Sebastian Blanco launched a shot from 30 yards that found the upper corner of the goal. Portland scored again in the 61st minute on a rebound header by Diego Valeri.
The 2-1 Portland lead meant Sporting KC needed twp goals to advance in the playoff. Sporting KC picked up one of those goals in the 81st minute when Graham Zusi crossed the ball to Gerso Fernandes near the penalty spot, but Sporting KC was not able to score again. Portland’s third goal came in stoppage time as Sporting Kansas City took increasingly risky offensive positions in an attempt to win the game, which allowed midfielder Diego Valeri to score on a counterattack.
Portland will advance to the MLS Cup final against Atlanta United FC. The match will be played in Atlanta on Dec. 8.
Sporting Kansas City will start its 2019 season in February. In addition to the usual MLS and U.S. Open Cup competitions, Sporting KC will participate in the CONCACAF Champions’ League, a competition among top club teams from across North America. Sporting KC qualified for the Champions’ League based on its 2017 Open Cup championship.
Sporting Kansas City looked like a team still under construction in a season-opening 2-0 loss against New York City FC on Sunday evening.
The retooled offense showed flashes of its potential, but struggled to make the right connections for scoring, especially in the first half.
New Sporting KC forward Johnny Russell, playing from the left wing most of the game, was “incredibly dangerous” in the words of head coach Peter Vermes. He played in crosses from the wing as well as dribbling through defenders in the penalty area.
Newly signed Sporting midfielder Felipe Gutierrez won eight tackles and placed two shots on goal.
NYCFC got a goal in the 32nd minute by forward Maxi Morales, who got a cross from the left wing from David Villa.
New York got its second goal after halftime in the 53rd minute. Forward Jesus Medina, in his MLS debut, knocked in a cross he received near the penalty spot.
Sporting stepped up its offensive energy after Vermes brought in Daniel Salloi and Gerso Fernandes in the second half. The team maintained longer possessions and spent more time near the New York goal but still wasn’t able to get past goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
SKC goalkeeper Tim Melia attempted to shoulder blame for the score.
“We gave up four shots [on goal]. I just didn’t make any big saves. That’s on me. It’s not like we’re leaking shots and they’re getting opportunities all over the field,” Melia said.
Sporting KC will play on the road at the Chicago Fire on Saturday, March 10. The next home game is Saturday, March 17, against the San Jose Earthquakes.