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Sporting KC draws Portland in preseason match

A tale of two halves as both teams score twice

Thad Bell

Sporting Kansas City played to a 2-2 draw against the Portland Timbers on Thursday in preseason Arizona. SKC scored twice in the first half and the Timbers came back with two of their own in the second half. Both teams played more experienced squads in the first half and younger squads in the second half.

With Sporting KC dominating the first half, Nicolas Isimat-Mirin and Johnny Russell were the goal scorers. Aodhan Quinn and Felipe Mora leveled it for Portland in the second half.

The first goal was a nice combination from two defenders. With SKC on the attack, Isimat-Mirin took the ball into the Portland end, sliding the ball out to Graham Zusi before continuing his run into the Portland box. The veteran right back waited for the right moment and picked out Isimat-Mirin with a perfect pass. A well placed shot by the French center back put the ball in the net and gave SKC their first goal of preseason.

“It was good movement and the movement of the game that gave him the opportunity to make that decision to go forward, so credit to him for doing it. The buildup and the cross right to him where he was wide open was excellent,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes explained.

In the 34th minute, SKC captain Johnny Russel doubled the lead. Russell’s dribble in the box spun a defender and with quick touch to his left, Russell then sliced into the far side of the net.

“We moved the ball very quickly, broke them and got after them and Johnny did his individual solo that we have seen so many times,” Vermes observed. When he gets around that area, he is pretty clinical.”

Overall, Vermes was pleased with the experienced first group. “The first team was very good. Very good with the ball, very good defensively, good movement off the ball, good patience in the game and created some high-quality chances. Some really good experience on the field today, which was excellent. It was really good seeing in that sense and getting a shutout and then scoring two goals was excellent in the first half.”

With a mass change at half, Vermes was not as pleased with the second group. The second half team was mostly younger players. There’s guys that are getting the opportunity to play within the way that we want to play, but they are just not solid yet with their concepts of what needs to be done and when in the game. The fact that we gave up two goals, we gave up way too many set pieces in the final third and that’s because of poor decision-making when you’re defending somebody or out of position or you don’t work hard enough to get into the position early.”

“Set pieces was one thing” Vermes continued. “Then the other was the fact that, that group not understanding that the most important thing in any game is to win. So they’re winning, and to then give up the game and give up two goals the way they did, especially the second one is just not good recognition at the time. That’s where guys like that have to accelerate their understanding of the game much quicker than where they are now, because they should already know that. So that’s not a lesson that, I’ll have a lot of patience with learning, that has to be very quickly.”

The second Portland goal was the result of a bad giveaway right at the end of the game.

“We gave up a silly ball at the end but there is more than enough situations, all over the place with all players, just not recognizing and understanding the time on the clock,” Vermes stated.

In that second group were two players getting their first time with Sporting KC after recently arriving from Europe. Newcomers Logan Ndenbe and Robert Voloder have had little time to practice but did get their first taste of their new league.

“They need a lot of work, meaning that they need a lot of work in our team, “Vermes explained. “They just haven’t been here. So, you know, the team is at times doing something and they’re not. They’re just not in sync with because they don’t understand what their role in that moment is. They need some time to do that with us.”

“Disappointed to not get the win even though it is preseason, you want to get in good habits and win games, “ Johnny Russell said after the match.

Sporting returns to Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex for the next exhibition match, this time against USL Championship side El Paso Locomotive.

Scoring Summary:

SKC — Nicolas Isimat Mirin 18’

SKC — Johnny Russell 34’

POR — Aodhan Quinn 51’

POR — Felipe Mora 90’

Sporting Kansas City Lineups

First Half: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi, Nicolas Isimat-Mirin, Andreu Fontas, Ben Sweat (Spencer Glass 23’); Uri Rosell, Remi Walter, Roger Espinoza (Cam Duke 35’); Johnny Russell, Khiry Shelton, Daniel Salloi

Second Half: John Pulskamp; Kayden Pierre, Aljaz Dzankic ^, Robert Voloder, Logan Ndenbe; Jose Mauri, Felipe Hernandez, Cam Duke (Jake Davis 75’); Grayson Barber, Ozzie Cisneros, Tyler Freeman

^ Sporting KC II player

Sporting Kansas City Preseason Schedule & Results

• Saturday, Jan. 29 | T 0-0 vs. Colorado Rapids

• Thursday, Feb. 3 | T 2-2 vs. Portland Timbers

• Wednesday, Feb. 9 | 12 p.m. CT | vs. El Paso Locomotive FC

• Saturday, Feb. 12 | 5:30 p.m. CT | vs. Phoenix Rising FC

• Saturday, Feb. 19 | 3 p.m. CT | vs. Austin FC