Last year Michael Harrington was a defensive reserve for Sporting Kansas City. A very adequate one, and player featured prominently on the back line of the Kansas City Wizards for the better part of three seasons.
More than 10,000 minutes logged with a team are not forgotten easily. Tonight, however, Harrington will play at Sporting Park for the first time as an opponent.
Previewing Sporting KC
The Eastern Conference leading Sporting Kansas City will be trying to avenge a dreadful loss to Los Angeles this past Saturday as they completed a cross-country road trip in four days. This is the first match they have had at home since their April 5th win against DC United.
Sporting holds a slim one-point lead in the East over Houston and Houston has played one less match than Sporting. A win tonight is something Sporting KC would benefit a lot from as it may give them some breathing room at the top of the conference.
Portland is sitting in fourth place in the Western Conference in their third MLS season. Six days ago, Portland went into Buck Shaw Stadium and drew with San Jose, which was preceded by two wins in a row. This year's Portland squad is visibly better than last years.
Portland is currently one point out of second place. A win tonight against Sporting could propel them to second place, whereas a loss and several other Western teams winning could have Portland drop near the bottom of the table.
Sporting player to watch: Claudio Bieler
After scoring four goals in the first six games, Claudio Bieler has not been too much of a threat the past couple of games, even getting subbed off in the Los Angeles game. Tonight, we'll see if Bieler can get back into a scoring groove against the Portland back line.
Portland player to watch: Michael Harrington
Who else from Portland by Mikey Harrington. As stated above, this is Harrington's first visit to Kansas City while not in a blue uniform. He's been a very good defender for the Timber this far in 2013, but tonight's duel with the high-pressure Sporting offense will be a good test of Harrington's ability as a renewed starter.
What Sporting needs to do to win
Sporting will need to keep doing what they have been doing the whole season: Keep the defense on their toes. Portland may or may not use the "Park the Bus" tactic in tonight's matchup, but if they do, Sporting needs to keep hammering the ball down the throats of the Timber's back line until they force a mistake and a goal.
What Portland needs to do to win
Portland needs to shut down Sporting in the midfield. Sporting has had some great success this year with a new midfield in Benny Feilhaber, Ori Rosell and Paulo Nagamura. Portland will have to stop the distribution in the midfield and not allow the Sporting forwards a chance at the ball.
Sporting Kansas City 1-0 Portland
I feel that, even though Portland is much better in 2013, Sporting can still force a mistake and earn a goal to win it in a close matchup.