KANSAS CITY, KS - AUGUST 17: Graham Zusi #8 of Sporting Kansas City celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the 1st half of the Major League Soccer game against the Portland Timbers at LiveStrong Sporting Park on August 17, 2011 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Sporting KC takes their undefeated record to Portland looking to extend their large lead in the Eastern Conference. Portland is just looking to play a whole 90 minutes and win their first match since their season opener.
If you asked who would end the perfect start for Sporting Kansas City, the Portland Timbers wouldn't be the first team to come to mind. Nevertheless, they are the team who looks to do it tonight, and luckily for them they get to try in Portland.
Staying Strong for 90
The Timbers knock has not been quality, they have dominated LA and Real Salt Lake for stretches, and in their first game after a fluke goal against they poured on pressure to drop Philadelphia. The problem for Portland is they haven't put together a full 90. Real Salt Lake and LA put them away with two goals in the final ten minutes.
Of all the flaws to have, this is perhaps the worst to have against Sporting KC. Early in the season Sporting pulled out close wins against DC United and FC Dallas with late goals. The team seems to get stronger as the match goes on. So it's a matchup between fast starters and solid finishers, so if the game is even going into the later stages don't fret too much, there are goals to be had until Portland shows the ability to finish the games.
Home Field Advantage
One of the best benefits of Seattle's impressive fan support has been the show their rivals have put on to at least compare and in Portland surpass their Cascadia rival in home field advantage. Jeld Wen hasn't shown that in record, but that is more due to the team Portland has fielded which isn't quite there yet.
For Sporting, this won't be anything new, as they have similar support at home matches, but it might be the first time this year playing in a truly hostile environment. Against DC United, they played in cavernous RFK, where even the super DCU fans seem small. In LA, they took on the little brother and Chivas USA has much less support than the LA Galaxy. Vancouver didn't fill their stadium because it's the hockey playoffs and there is a clear hierarchy there (See Hockey Riots, Vancouver). This will be another challenge altogether as Portland's fans and stadium will be ready.
Kris Boyd is Portland's designated player and lately has shown a knack for scoring that many teams wish their DP's would do. After a match-up against a solid attack in Vancouver, the match-up here is focused on Boyd and Darlington Nagbe. Boyd's goals are more traditional, but Nagbe's as any Sporting fan remembers tend to be filed under fantastic or golazo.
Here's his strike from last year, hoping that is his only highlight of his career against Sporting.
Same as against Vancouver as Julio Cesar is still out.
Sporting KC 3 Portland 1
Portland has allowed 11 goals, but 8 have come in the final 15 of each half. Sporting sometimes takes a while to settle in, so they should be settled in about those times. After picking a draw against RSL, I learned my lesson; don't pick against SKC until they lose or draw.