About the Teams
Sporting Kansas City
Sporting Kansas City comes into this match with a battered lineup caused by injuries and World Cup absences. They'll be missing several players they would have played in this match and will be forced to play some players in this match and Friday's league match. This includes Lawrence Olum, Alex Martinez and Seth Sinovic. They do, however, have nice depth on the front line that will serve them well these next two matches. Their attack is what is going to carry them through this next few games while they hope that their thin back line doesn't get any thinner.
After starting the season off with struggles the Timbers have turned it on as of late, winning four out of their last five league matches. They also have the advantage of being unaffected by the World Cup, keeping all of their main stars during the tournament. Unlike Sporting KC, Portland will have their best players on the pitch this week rested up from the break. They also signed Fanendo Adi to be a new designated player yesterday after notching four assists on loan from FC Copenhagen. Everything is coming up Timbers!
Who to Watch
Sporting Kansas City- Soony Saad
Soony Saad is starting to turn back to the winger we saw last year, scoring goals in his past two matches for Sporting KC and being a general nuisance on the wing. His distance shot against Minnesota United FC last week came after creating several opportunities, which is similar to his goal against Houston. Last summer, we saw how good Saad can be (apparently only during summer months though) and it looks like he's starting to regain his form. This will be vital against a Portland team that can score and may turn this game into a shootout.
Portland Timbers- Jack Jewsbury
The former Kansas City Wizard is a likely starter in this match, playing a holding midfield role in a 4-1-4-1 formation. He will be important for clogging up the middle and holding down Dom Dwyer and Antonio Dovale, should they both start in the same positions they were last week by the end of the match. If he can clog the middle and force the game wide, Portland can take advantage and use their four-man midfield to control the game from there. If he isn't, Sporting KC is going to be able to put the pressure on the Portland defense and the Timber's midfield will not be able to create the offense they need to win this match.
Why They'll Win
Sporting Kansas City
Sporting KC has the ability to put pressure on the defense and Portland has a suspect defense. It's like a match made in heaven for the home side. Despite scoring 28 goals, good for second most in the league, the Timbers have also let in 27 goals, third most in the league. They have the ability to score, but they will also fold under a high-pressured system such as Sporting Kansas City's. With the front three intact after the injury and World Cup bugs have swept through the club, Sporting KC should be able to outscore Portland and advance to the quarterfinals.
Sporting KC's back line is going to be stretched as thin as possible with Kevin Ellis and Erik Palmer-Brown the likely centerbacks and Jacob Peterson as the likely right back. That leaves Seth Sinovic as the only opening day starter likely to play tonight. Portland's ability to score, especially with their recent form and Maximiliano Urruti at the top, the Timbers are going to be able to score on this tattered Sporting KC side. It all comes down to whether their defense can hold up enough to keep the ball out of the Timber's defensive half.
Sporting Kansas City: Gruenebaum; Peterson, Ellis, Palmer-Brown, Sinovic, Olum, Martinez, Dovale, Saad, Dwyer, Zizzo.
Portland Timbers (From Michael Orr): Donovan Ricketts; Michael Harrington, Danny O'Rourke, Rauwshan McKenzie, Alvas Powell; Jack Jewsbury; Rodney Wallace, Michael Nanchoff, Gaston Fernandez, Kalif Alhassan; Maximiliano Urruti.