Portland Timbers 1 : 0 Sporting Kansas City
Portland snapped their four game losing streak after surviving a physical encounter with Sporting Kansas City.
A Chance Myers own goal settled the encounter in the first half. The defeat ends Sporting’s run of seven straight wins to begin the season in an overtly physical battle with Portland seemingly determined to stand their ground.
28 fouls and six yellow cards littered the game but no-one could possible claim that the excellent referee, Hilario Grajeda, was exceptionally punitive. In fact the opposite, he allowed the players to get stuck into each other and acknowledged tough guys such as Julio Cesar, Aurelio Collin, Kris Boyd, Steve Purdy and Eric Brunner seemed to revel in it.
Julio Cesar replaced Paul Nagamura in the Sporting Kansas midfield. Portland head coach John Spencer made several changes, bringing in Steve Purdy at right back, Mike Chabala at left back, and pushing Lovel Palmer into a defensive midfield role. Diego Chara was pushed out to the left wing.
Portland have had the severest ill luck with injuries so far this season but many will look back on tonight and observe that Lady Fortune began to smile on them a little today.
The 100% Sporting side were facing their third game in eight days, and impressive as they were, that fact was never really too far below the surface of their performance.
In the dieing seconds Hanyar Mosquera cleared a loose ball from under his own cross bar after Perkins had let a long Matt Besler throw slip through his fingers.
The Timbers can also count themselves fortunate that Grajeda missed an obvious shirt tug by Purdy in the first half, inside the Timbers penalty area.
The camera caught it cleanly though Grajeda was not in so fortunate a position. From a succeeding corner, Brunner hugged Collin so tightly that the Frenchman was totally unable to jump thus significantly reducing the arial threat posed by the visitors.
On another day, definitely the first and arguably the second would have resulted in a penalty kick.
But it was the goal itself that will be most remembered and it came just four minutes before half time.
The hardworking Boyd chased down a ball deep in the right corner but saw very little to aim at inside the Kansas penalty box.
Undeterred, he thumped in a decent cross into a dangerous place. Some rare bad communication affected the increasingly impressive Chance Myers. He was hurtling towards the ball presumably to head behind for a corner and out of danger.
His colleague Cesar should have left him to do so, but he also challenged for the ball and hampered Myer’s balance and judgment.
The ball hit off Meyer’s head and landed in the back of his own net with Jimmy Nielsen, disbelieving and helpless in equal measure. Portland were 1-0 up and on the balance of play at that point deservedly so.
The second half was a different matter with SKC bearing down on their hosts in a search for the equaliser. As their fatigue set in, so did Portland’s determination. To be fair, the Eastern Conference leaders never came all that close to breaching Perkins’s goal.
He foiled Kei Kamara in the 80th minute and left back turned defensive midfielder Palmer blocked a shot from the top of the box in the 88th minute.
So Portland held on and ended their four game losing streak. They remain rooted at the bottom of the table but with the failing Colorado Rapids in sight; just beyond that light at the end of the tunnel.
For SKC, it was a pretty heroic end to their superb start. They fought and battled all the way despite the tiredness.
They now get the rest they really needed before hosting Montreal on May 5th. Portland visit the same side next Saturday.
Suddenly expectations are high again.
Portland: GK Perkins, D Purdy (Braun, 78), D Mosquera, D Brunner, D Chabala, M Nagbe (Songo’o, 89), M Jewsbury ©, M Palmer, M Chara, F Perlaza (Alexander, 84), F Boyd
Substitutes Not Used: GK Rowe, D Jean-Baptiste, F Dike, F Richards
TOTAL SHOTS: 12 (Boyd, 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 2 (Boyd, Brunner, 1); FOULS: 16 (Chabala, Chara, 3); OFFSIDES: 5; CORNER KICKS: 7; SAVES: 2
Sporting KC: GK Nielsen ©, D Meyers, D Collin, D Besler, D Sinovic, M Cesar (Nagamura, 76), M Zusi, M Espinoza, M Convey (Bunbury, 71), F Kamara, F Sapong
Substitutes Not Used: GK Kempin, D Harrington, D Olum, D Sassano, M Peterson