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Match Preview: Sporting Kansas City vs. Portland Timbers

Can Sporting KC earn their first win against a new-look Portland Timbers?

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

About the Teams

Sporting Kansas City

Sporting come into this match with a lackluster start to the 2015 season with one tie and one loss to their young record. They certainly look like a team that has six new starters with the chemistry not all the way there yet. Although there has been flashes, the team still needs to gel a bit. Good news for Sporting KC tonight is that Matt Besler is back after missing last week with a red card suspension. Some possible bad news is that centerback Ike Opara is listed as questionable after a shoulder injury against FC Dallas. That looks to be a game-time decision.

Portland Timbers

The Timbers were so close to defeating Los Angeles last week after scoring a late goal to put themselves up 2-1, but Alan Gordon equalized in stoppage time to keep Portland winless in 2015. This Portland team, however, has put up good performances so far this year and look to be better than their 2014 version. They are without Will Johnson and Diego Valeri, which has changed their attack to go through Diego Chara and Fanendo Adi, and features more of a direct buildup.

Who to Watch

Sporting Kansas City - Dom Dwyer

Dwyer has had a rough start to the 2015 season, missing a few open chances in the first match and then flubbing a penalty shot against FC Dallas. Tonight could be an indicator of whether the first couple of matches were flukes and he just needed to get his form back or whether he is still off his form. Maybe getting another opportunity to gel with Nemeth will help, but it will be interesting to watch Dwyer tonight just to see if there's something to worry about with him this season.

Portland Timbers - Diego Chara

Chara is one of the best ball-winning midfielders in the league and his performance tonight could play a large part in how the Timbers fare. He'll be going up against Benny Feilhaber and another great ball-winner in Roger Espinoza, so whoever wins that battle will control the midfield, which could lead to controlling possession and if the Timbers can control possession they stand a good chance of winning this match. It all starts with Chara in the middle.

How They Will Win

Sporting Kansas City

Portland has a bit of a void between Darlington Nagbe and Diego Chara because Nagbe has more of a "rover" role to balance out the attack with Johnson and Valeri out. This leaves ample space for Sporting KC to use a 4-2-3-1 and play Espinoza and Feilhaber in this part of the midfield. With Espinoza playing destroyer and Feilhaber using this spot to distribute, Sporting KC stand a decent chance of controlling the midfield with four players still ahead to lead the attack.

Portland Timbers

The Timbers will win this match if Diego Chara plays well in the midfield and stops and distribution before it begins. If Chara draws Espinoza and Feilhaber toward him, then that leaves the back of the pitch open for Nagbe and Adi to take advantage. It's all about the battle of the midfield because both Sporting KC's and Portland's back lines haven't been extremely impressive so far, so whichever teams wins the midfield stands a good chance of winning the match.

Predictions

Lineups

Sporting Kansas City: Marin; Dia, Opara, Besler, De Jong; Espinoza, Feilhaber; Anor, Nemeth, Zusi; Dwyer

Portland Timbers: Kwarasey; Powell, Borchers, Ridgewell, Villafana; Chara, Jewsbury; Asprilla, Nagbe, Wallace; Adi