NWSportsBeat MLS Previews
The Portland Timbers (1-4-1, 4 points, ninth in Western Conference) play host to Sporting Kansas City (7-0-0, 21 points, first in Eastern Conference) Saturday night at Jeld-Wen Field at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday’s match features Portland, a squad that is seeking an identity in the young MLS season after a franchise-record fourth consecutive defeat in a 3-1 debacle in Carson, Calif. against the Los Angeles Galaxy.
This is contrasted by Sporting, who after a 3-1 defeat of Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Wednesday, are riding a seven-match winning streak that has them on the road towards history, as they look to become the first team in MLS history to start a season unbeaten in 13 games, set formerly by the Kansas City Wizards and the aforementioned Galaxy (both 10-0-2) in 2010.
Ride Kris Boyd
Along with Timbers teammate, defender Hayner Mosquera, the Scottish striker was named to the sixth edition of the MLS Team of the Week, for his offensive performance against the Los Angeles Galaxy last week.
The two joined midfielder Darlington Nagbe (week 4) as the only Timbers to accomplish the feat in 2012.
Currently, Boyd and Nagbe are the Timbers leading goal scorers with three goals each. Boyd has scored in two consecutive matches heading into Saturday’s match. Expect the Timbers to create opportunities for the two offensive talents on Saturday night.
Win the Shots on Goal Category
Portland must look to get opportunities either through Boyd or through Nagbe who has one multi-goal game this season. Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen has been untested thus far, saving 14 out of 16 shots. He is allowing a conservative 0.29 goals per game.
The team is 0-3-0 when they are out shot by their opponent, so getting to Sporting’s goalkeeper is crucial, especially since Nielsen posted three consecutive clean slates (a streak of 414 minutes) before giving up a goal to Vancouver in the 55th minute on Wednesday.
The Timbers Army can deal with losing, but they will not put up with a lack of effort in the second half. Portland has been consistently miserable in the second half all season long. The trend continued in Carson as the team gave up two goals in the second half.
The formula to beat the Timbers is out: Keep the game close in the first half and then bring in the cavalry up to the Portland net in the second half and watch the team collapse mentally and physically. Hopefully, the squad can transfer the home energy from the crowd to their hearts.
Stay in the Game
Sporting KC is not blowing out the competition as you would expect an undefeated team to do. The team has posted three 1-0 victories so far this season (New England, Real Salt Lake, and Los Angeles), not exactly frightening to opponents.
The Timbers can come away with points if they are able to hang around, because of their ability to score. The second 45 minutes has been when opponents take advantage of poor physical and mental conditioning and coach John Spencer must pull out every stop to get a win and turn this season around.
The presence of Mosquera back in the lineup should help ease the second-half defensive woes that have plagued the Timbers during their most recent struggles. There is no formula to beat Sporting Kansas City, or else the rest of the MLS would have employed it at this juncture of the season.
PORTLAND TIMBERS FC: OUT: GK Joe Bendik (knee); FW Eddie Johnson (concussion). DOUBTFUL: MF Kalif Alhassan (knee); DF Futty Danso (foot); GK Jake Gleeson (knee); DF David Horst (hip); MF James Marcelin (hamstring); DF Rodney Wallace (ankle).
SPORTING KANSAS CITY: OUT: GK Eric Kronberg (back); MF Julio Cesar (hamstring); DOUBTFUL: DF Cyprian Hedrick (achilles)
- Missouri-native and Portland captain Jack Jewsbury spent eight years with Sporting KC, making 195 appearances while scoring 14 goals and 20 assists
- Sporting KC leads the all-time series 2-0-0, with 2-1 and 3-1 victories respectively, last season… Saturday’s meeting is the only time the two will meet this season
- All five of the Timbers opponents are mutual opponents and in their matches Sporting has outscored them 8-1
- Dating back to 2011, Sporting KC has won nine consecutive matches
- The Timbers are 1-2-1 at home and 1-1-0 overall against Eastern Conference teams