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Sporting KC earns hard fought draw in Portland

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Sporting KC finishes three game set strong

MLS: Sporting KC at Portland Timbers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Both Sporting Kansas City and the Portland Timbers entered the match with undefeated streaks on the line. Both teams came out ready to play, generating chances early.

Portland’s Andres Flores had a good opportunity early when he gathered the ball from a scrum outside the box but launched his shot over the bar. A minute later Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal slipped a ball through to Gerso who probably should have taken the shot but instead tried to find the onrushing Daniel Salloi but the pass was deflected out for a corner.

The Timbers had more shots through the first half but Sporting KC had the better of the chances when Johnny Russell found Salloi in the box. The young striker’s shot beat Portland keeper Jeff Attinella but unfortunately for the visitors the shot rebounded off the underside of the crossbar and away from goal.

The game changed for Sporting KC when just before half, captain Matt Besler went down with an apparent hamstring issue. The Kansas City native stayed in through the remainder of the first half but was replaced by Emiliano Amor for the second half.

With SKC down their captain and most experienced defender, Portland came out on the attack and generated a number of chances but could not crack the visitors defense.

Early in the second half Fanendo Adi was able to outjump Amor. Adi headed it down and Tim Melia was able to get his left hand out and knock the ball safely out for a corner.

As the second half wore on, Sporting KC started to regroup and turn the early onslaught aside. In the 65th minute Johnny Russell was taken down and earned a freekick from just outside the box. Russell took the opportunity and his shot went just wide, grazing the outside of the post.

Despite a few close chances, it was not until Ilie’s shot in the 69th that Sporting KC actually put one on frame, forcing a save from Attinella. Roger Espinoza, Graham Zusi and Salloi added to the shots on target total but the Timbers keeper was up to the task.

After SKC was forced to make a sub for the injured Besler, manager Peter Vermes only elected to make one more change. Scottish international Russell had logged a lot of minutes and additional travel with his national team in addition to the minutes this week for Sporting KC. Former Portland player Kharlton Belmar entered the match for Russell with 12 minutes left in regulation. Belmar brought some energy and hunger but to no avail as the match ended in a scoreless draw.

The last team to hold Portland scoreless at home was 18 games ago and that team was also Sporting KC.

Sporting KC finishes the evening at 29 points and tied for first in the Western Conference with FC Dallas. SKC is just one point behind Atlanta United for the Supporters Shield.