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Sporting KC at Portland Timbers: Preview, Predictions, Injuries & Starting XI

Sporting Kansas City head out for a tough two game road trip starting in the Pacific Northwest.

MLS: Portland Timbers at Sporting KC Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting KC @ Portland Timbers

Saturday, April 15th, 2017 at 9:30 PM CT

Fox Sports KC | MLS Live | fuboTV

Last Sunday finally saw Sporting Kansas City break through on the score sheet in the most impactful way possible. The question is was it because Sporting finally just put it all together or because the Rapids traded away two of their key defenders and anyone would have crushed them?

A true test will come on the road against the Western Conference and Supporters Shield leading Portland Timbers. The same Timbers team that has knocked home 16 goals (league best) so far this season (compared to Sporting’s four). On the flip side Sporting have only allowed two goals total (league best), where Portland have allowed eight at home. It is really a battle of stout defense versus crazy offense.

Hitting the road won’t come easy for SKC. They lost the last time they were in Portland (3-0 with goals from Adi, Valeri and Jewsbury) and Portland have won 15 of their last 21 home games (including eight straight games without a loss). Despite that recent form, Sporting have actually been fairly successful in Providence Park. They have an all-time record of 3-2-1 and have shutouts in three of their last four visits.

Portland’s Offseason

After Portland unceremoniously failed to make the MLS Cup Playoffs in 2016 after winning the MLS Cup in 2015 the team sought out some changes. Out was retiring, and former Kansas City man, Jack Jewsbury. In his place would be Costa Rican David Guzman (who already has a reputation as a flopper).

Another move, and one that may sting Sporting KC fans more, was the signing of Sebastian Blanco who had been linked to SKC before joining Portland. Blanco replaces Lucas Melano, a Designated Player who never delivered on the field (though he may have been my wife’s favorite player on looks -- sorry Benny).

Another aspect of the Timbers offseason was the move to acquire two former Sporting KC players. Chance Myers moved to Oregon as a free agent and Lawrence Olum was traded in exchange for a first round pick and $50,000 in general allocation money. Myers has yet to see the pitch (though he’s been in the 18) but Olum has started every game and even has a goal.

Injuries

Sporting KC

OUT: Diego Rubio (torn ACL)

QUESTIONABLE: Benny Feilhaber (thigh strain)

Portland

OUT: Gbenga Arokoyo (Achilles tear), Ben Zemanski (adductor injury)

QUESTIONABLE: Liam Ridgewell (foot injury), Dairon Asprilla (foot injury)

Suspensions

Sporting KC - None

Portland - None

Recent Form

Sporting KC - Last Five: D/D/W/D/W (Nine Points)

Portland - Last Five: W/W/L/D/W (Ten Points)

Team Leaders

Goals

  • Sporting KC: Dom Dwyer, Benny Feilhaber, Seth Sinovic, Gerso Fernandes (1)
  • Timbers: Fanendo Adi, Diego Valeri (5) [Six others with one goal each]

Starting XI Predictions

Rest of the 18: Zendejas, Abdul-Salaam, Mustivar, Blessing, Ellis, Salloi, Saad

The Sporting KC lineup is again in flux depending on the status of Benny Feilhaber. Benny has been at practice and Peter Vermes told the media that outside of an unexpected setback that he’ll be available. That doesn’t mean he’ll start or even play. Muscle injuries are so sensetive it may not be worth risking his long term health.

If Benny doesn’t start (or play) Vermes will stick with his same lineup because he doesn’t really seem to like change. That would move Jimmy Medranda from the wing to the #10 role and Soony Saad to the wing. I would personally really like to see Daniel Salloi or Latif Blessing get the start as Saad has been less than impressive out wide. In limited minutes Blessing and Salloi have been involved in dangerous looking sequences.

[For what it’s worth, the fan voting on the Starting XI matches mine above. Vermes is a bit predictable but if it isn’t broken, it seems there would be no need to fix it.]

Whoever starts up top for SKC are going to have to get back and try to stop the Portland offense. With Adi and Valeri combing for 10 goals alone (more than double SKC’s entire team) and another six Portland players adding a single goal, the scoring could come from anywhere. Or nowhere.

Prediction: 0-0 Draw

With so many nil-nil draws between these two teams in their recent history and Sporting KC’s rash of nil-nil draws in 2017, it just feels like it could happen again. This will probably turn into a 4-3 shoot out now that I’m finally predicting no goals. Let’s just hope SKC is on the right side of whatever happens.