Sporting Kansas City exacted revenge on the Portland Timbers for their midweek US Open Cup exit with a 1-0 success in the Rose City.
The Wizards were able to grab a controversial first-half goal through Lawrence Olum, and then managed to deal with the Timbers’ front-line much better than they had in their 3-1 defeat on Tuesday.
The win temporarily moves Sporting to the top of the Eastern Conference and second in the overall standings. It was a backs-to-the-wall victory, as with World Cup pair Matt Besler and Graham Zusi among a number of absentees, they traveled to Providence Park with just 16 available players.
Portland, meanwhile, were again able to shuffle their talented attack, allowing injury victim Rodney Wallace to make his first league start of the season.
After an intriguing opening few minutes as two of the best teams in the division looked to get the measure of one another, Will Johnson had the game’s first chance. Diego Valeri’s corner fell to the Canadian, whose deflected strike was collected by Eric Kronberg inches from his goal-line.
Fanendo Adi was signed to a Designated Player contract this week, and he thought he’d given the hosts the lead in the 14th minute. The 23-year-old planted a header past the goalkeeper from a delicate Darlington Nagbe cross, but he had made his run a fraction too early and was correctly flagged offside.
The powerful striker again came forward, and his shot ricocheted into the path of Valeri who was denied by an alert Kronberg. The same combination then found the Argentina international unmarked at the far post, but at full-stretch couldn't hook his effort back towards the target.
Within a minute though, Kansas City were ahead following a slightly fortuitous throw-in award. The ball appeared to go out of play off Seth Sinovic’s foot, but the decision went the visitors’ way and the full back launched an aerial missile into the area that was brought down by Kevin Ellis and fired under Donovan Ricketts by Olum.
As the pace of the match ramped up, the Timbers came close to an equaliser – Valeri’s delivery from the right was flicked on by Nagbe, narrowly missing the top corner.
Though Portland were dominating possession, they looked vulnerable whenever the ball was in their third, something they will hope to have eradicated with the signature of West Bromwich Albion centre-back Liam Ridgewell.
This was highlighted further by a succession of long-throws at the start of the second period, though Adi was proving effective at both ends of the pitch. Having cleared his lines on numerous occasions in front of his own goal, the Nigerian towered above several Wizards defenders from another Valeri centre but nodded over.
Coming under an increasing amount of pressure and with an already depleted squad, the last thing Sporting needed was another injury but goalscorer Olum was forced off in the 56th minute, dealing a serious blow to their hopes of holding onto a one-goal lead.
That advantage was almost doubled in the 63rd minute though. Dom Dwyer’s industry allowed Soony Saad to take the ball from Diego Chara inside the Timbers area, and veteran goalkeeper Ricketts had to make a stunning reaction save to prevent the 21-year-old from netting his second goal of the season.
Scuffed attempts from Valeri, Gaston Fernandez and Jorge Villafana were all intercepted as Portland looked to repeat the late heroics that have become a trademark of their home form this season.
But the game could have been up in the 86th minute, had Dwyer not sliced wide when he was slipped in after running beyond Pa Modou Kah. For a player who has enjoyed such a rich vein of goal-scoring form in recent weeks, it was a quite incredible miss that presented Caleb Porter’s men with a life-line.
Where the Philadelphia Union, DC United, LA Galaxy and FC Dallas had all fallen on this ground in stoppage time though, Kansas City had the composure to hold on for a crucial win that was met by jeers from the ever-passionate home fans.
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