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Sporting KC Chop Down the Timbers

Sorry for the terrible pun but hey... 3-0 Sporting KC win.

MLS: Portland Timbers at Sporting KC Peter G. Aiken

Sporting KC brought the same lineup that they rolled over Los Angeles Football Club with last weekend.

Portland came out with a very defensive lineup going with a 5-3-2 and it looked from the very start that they would be content to bunker and counter. What was surprising is that in the third game of the week they chose to rest possibly their most important midfielder (when it comes to defense) in Diego Charra.

The game started with Sporting Kansas City really dominating possession early. In the 11th minute there were back-to-back chances where a long ball over the top was almost brought down by Gerso Fernandes and he shouted for a PK that was given or replayed. Then the Portland Timbers immediately turned the ball over and Roger Espinoza was streaking towards the goal before sending his shot well wide.

Entirely against the run of play in the 13th minute Samuel Armenteros took a shot that may have been covered by Tim Melia but instead it dinged off the post and out.

In the 19th minutes Espinoza again came up with a steal just outside the 18-yard-box and he sent a soft through ball to Gerso who hesitated instead of taking it first time and allow the Portland defense to recover for the block. Definitely the best chance of the first 20 minutes for SKC.

In the 21st minute there was some lovely combination play between Felipe Gutierrez, Gerso and Diego Rubio that would eventually lead to a foul on the top of the box against Gerso to setup a free kick. Graham Zusi would take the free kick and it was good but not good enough as the Attinella pushed it away for a throw in.

In the 24th minute again Espinoza’s pressure created a turnover that Rubio recovered and sent wide to Daniel Salloi. Salloi cut it back and Gerso was wide open in front of the keeper but an emergency slide tackle from behind poked it away from Gerso and eventually out for a corner that wouldn’t lead to anything.

In the 28th minute Diego Rubio finally got his first goal as a starter (fifth in league play). From the top of the box Rubio hit a strong strike on the ground right into the corner. The goal was assisted by the team leader in assist, Roger Espinoza (his ninth). Sporting KC thoroughly dominated the beginning of the game and clearly deserved the lead.

Despite falling behind, Portland continued to bunker and many of their players moved like they were tired. Again, its their third game in eight days and it was showing.

In the 37th minute Matt Besler intercepted the ball when Portland were a little higher up the pitch. The ball quickly moved down the left side and Salloi sent a ball across into the middle and once against Rubio was there to put it into the goal (his sixth). This time in the opposite corner. 2-0 Sporting KC. It was Salloi’s seventh assist in league play.

In the 45th minute, just before halftime, Bill Tuiloma replaced center back Larrys Mabiala. It’s unclear if it’s due to the likely exhaustion he’s dealing with from playing so much or because Giovanni Savarese might think that he’s at least partially at fault for the first two goals. Sporting would enter halftime up 2-0.

Jimmy Mack from No Other Pod summed up the first half pretty well.

At the half Sporting had 67% of the possession, 91% passing accuracy, 11 shots and six on target.

Portland started the second half on the front foot and Tuiloma hit a strong shot from outside the box in the 46th minute that Tim Melia was forced to push over the bar. Also in the 49th minute Diego Valeri, who had been mostly invisible in the first half, nearly got in alone at inside the box but Besler poked it away at the last moment to prevent the chance.

In the 51st Rubio was about to break on a counter when Julio Cascante put studs into the knee to earn the first booking of the game. That was a pretty orange yellow card and Cascante was probably lucky to not be heading for the showers.

In the 56th minute there were hoards of players running into the box. Espinoza probably should have shot but didn’t and the ball was passed several times before Gutierrez eventually sent a shot just over the bar.

In the 57th minute Portland made their second sub bringing on the dangerous Sebastián Blanco for Cristhian Paredes.

In the 60th minute Gerso chased a ball into the corner and make some moves to get around Zarek Valentin before Valentin grabbed a handful of jersey and Gerso went down pretty easy earning the second yellow of the day for Portland.

In the 67th minute Valeri sends in a cross that Andrés Flores rose the highest to get but his header would go just wide of the net.

Sporting made their first sub of the night in the 69th minute bringing Johnny Russell in for Salloi. Salloi played much better tonight and giving him a rest seemed like the right thing to do since he’s played a ton of minutes this year.

Russell made an immediate impact as the team streaked down the pitch and he had a shot in the 70th minute but he sent it into the side netting. Immediately after that Portland came flying on the counter and some emergency defending by Ike Opara kept Portland from getting their shot off.

In the 72nd minute Espinoza almost put a shot on target (he’d sent several “Roger Specials” well over the crossbar) but instead it bounced off the post for a goal kick.

In the 73rd minute Krisztian Nemeth made his return to Children’s Mercy Park coming on for Diego Rubio for SKC’s second sub of the night. In the 80th minute Gutierrez came off for Yohan Croizet and immediately after Valeri was removed for Tomás Conechny to use up the final subs for each team.

In the 84th minute Nemeth finally got his first chance to show us what he was made of with a strong turn in the box but the shot just didn’t have enough on it.

In the 89th minute the subs got together for a score. A little give and go from Russell to Nemeth and back to Russell setup Johnny to be one-on-one with the keeper and bag the teams third goal of the night. That would be the final goal of the night and the game would end 3-0.

Sporting will be back at home next weekend to face Minnesota United with the chance to extend their three game winning streak.