Sporting Kansas City's season ended in heartbreak at the stroke of midnight in Portland on Thursday night. Much like the previous meetings between the two teams, it was a very scrappy and ugly match. Both teams battled through 120 minutes and 11 rounds of penalty kicks before the Timbers came out on top.
The Timbers jumped all over Sporting KC with several chances big chances in just the first few minutes of the game. The visitors needed a goal line clearance from Nagamura in the 5' minute and the Timbers continued to pour it on. In the first 15' minutes KC were unable to get any sort of sustained possession and couldn't muster up even a half chance. Meanwhile Portland had racked up 5 dangerous shots and created even more moments that stopped the hearts of SKC Nation.
It was frantic for Sporting. But they weathered the storm and the game slowed down a bit around the 20 minute mark. The home team had to take a breath after the high flying, relentless play to open the match. This gave Sporting KC the chance to move the ball around and get a couple looks on goal.
The Timbers were still very much in control and threatened several more times before the first half whistle. Tim Melia, as per the usual, bailed his team out repeatedly and SKC were able to make it to the break with the score even at zeroes.
As the 2nd half began Sporting KC were looking much better. Nemeth beat Powell on the end line and sent in a dangerous ball at the top of the 6 yard box. Dwyer took a touch but was unable to fire it through traffic on frame and the ball flew into the side netting. Dom would get another chance just a couple minutes later after bad giveaway but his rocket from 25 yards went JUST wide.
After it looked like SKC were putting something together, Portland found the breakthrough in the 57'. After struggling to clear the ball, it fell to Diego Valeri at the top of the box. He cut through traffic and it happened to bounce to Rodney Wallace who poked it passed Melia.. finally.
With the season on the line, KC began to push forward and the match took a turn to the wild side. In the 69' minute, Tim Melia jumped off his line and pounced on a ball ending another threat. But Wallace let his feet drag right into the face of the KC backstop. Melia was immediately a bit wobbly and had a big cut on his face. He made an attempt to stay in the game, but after making another save he decided he couldn't continue. In the 84' minute youngster Jon Kempin made his way onto the pitch to replace him.
Graham Zusi was having an absolutley terrible match up to this point. He had not had a single good pass all game until the 87' minute when he sent a great ball into the box that found Kevin Ellis. The CB let the ball glance off his head and into the back of the net to extend the season for Kansas City!
After seven very long minutes of stoppage time, regulation ended tied at 1-1.
Just six minutes into extra time, Krisztian Nemeth would once again score a world class goal when his team needed the most. Nemo had been giving Alvas Powell fits the entire match and he this play he made him look especially bad. He took it into the box toward the end line and cut it back ever so tightly, as he always does. There was no stopping him from there. He curled the ball around Kwarasey and bulged the side netting. Absolutely beautiful from the Hungarian.
Sporting were able to withstand another storm and get to the break. After 105 minutes of play, the legs were tired and the scrappy play continued. Fans were booing. Players were bleeding, limping and screaming at each other.
But the substitute Maximiliano Urruti got the equalizer in the 118' minute. Asprilla took a throw in near the touchline and fired a low cross in front of goal. The SKC defense was left watching as Urruti stuck out his boot and sent it passed Kempin.
The ensuing penalty kicks were not for the faint of heart. The backup, hometown, homegrown, 21 year old back up keeper Jon Kempin put in a valiant effort and SKC had three chances to wrap it up. A Kevin Ellis shot bounced off the left post and rookie Saad Abdul-Salaam's would somehow hit both posts without crossing the line.
It came down all the way down to the keepers, because this game was just like that. Kwarasey put his home and then stopped Kempin's shot to end the season for Sporting KC.
In the end, this was one of the epic games in recent memory. Sporting KC had several chances to close out the match during play, and in PK's as well, but they finished on the wrong side of the thriller. It's now back to KC to begin the off season.