Sporting Kansas City opened their 2023 MLS campaign with a 1-0 loss on the road Monday night against the Portland Timbers.
Despite the loss, things could have gone a whole lot worse in Portland, especially remembering how things went last time Sporting paid a visit to the Rose City and came home with a 7-2 thumping.
Last year's game at Portland was a 7-2 loss, so.... progress?— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) February 28, 2023
I thought SKC were the better team outside of that rocky opening. I think the goals will come. #SportingKC #PORvSKC
The era of the new Hoops 4.0 kit did not get off to a great start in its debut. Robert Voloder nearly gifted Portland the opening goal in the opening five minutes but was bailed out by the goalkeeping heroics of John Pulskamp. One-on-one in the box, Pulskamp got a vital touch as he dove to knock it away before touching Marvin Loría’s rebounded effort wide.
Moments later, Portland did find the early breakthrough as Ben Sweat coughed up possession to Yimmi Chara, who played a split pass to Juan Mosquera, firing a low shot that managed its way past Pulskamp.
“Other than the mistake on the first goal, I thought we had it,” said Peter Vermes. “Outside of that, the team played well. The subs came on and were energetic and had an impact for sure.”
Sporting saw a lot of possession after conceding the opener but was unable to crack open the Portland defense from 12 shots. Sporting made three substitutions who each had about 20 minutes to make an impact.
“I thought all the guys played well and I think the guys that came on had a real impact, especially going forward,” Vermes said. “My only criticism might have been, there’s a few times we probably could have served the ball into the box a little bit more.”
Sporting had seven accurate crosses and 1.13 expected goals across the first 90 minutes of the season.
After getting punched in the mouth early, Daniel Salloi liked the team’s response, “I think we reacted very well, and we pushed really, really well in the second half and we had our chances. We need to score them and then we’ll be fine.”
Erik Thommy was a spark in the first half, nearly equalizing but had his shot from a Khiry Shelton service denied by David Bingham in the 24th minute. Sporting nearly found the late equalizer, but Willy Agada’s header was sent just wide.
Vermes was pleased with how Sporting looked offensively against a tough Timbers defense, “[Portland] is always a good team defensively, for sure. They matched up pretty tough against our guys up front. Like I said, we created some really good chances. We did a good job.”
With a mix-match squad, Salloi has the belief that the offense will pick it up once some players get healthy.
“We missed a couple players and I think once we have a full squad, we can be more and more creative,” said Salloi. “I thought we had our chances, and we could have easily put one away.”
Sporting will visit the Colorado Rapids for another conference matchup on Saturday night.