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Early goals, second-half defense keep Sporting KC on a roll

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Make that eight matches in a row without a loss for sizzling Sporting Kansas City.

What was once a season on the brink of utter disaster after a 1-6-1 start with its first 10 games on the road while a new home was being finished is now as promising as it ever has been for SKC. The club scored a pair of early goals Saturday night at always-rowdy Jeld-Wen FIeld, then made them stand with some old-fashioned keep-away style possession in the second half of a 2-1 win over the mistake-prone Portland Timbers.

Sporting is 4-0-4 since the last time it lost an MLS match, May 21, and is suddenly right back into the thick of things in the MLS Eastern Conference with 20 points, good for fourth place for at least a night. And its prospects could hardly look much brighter with 11 of its next 12 league matches at Livestrong Sporting Park. 

The Timbers are headed in the opposite direction, as a number of defensive lapses and some sloppy passing and lulls in their tempo showed Saturday. Coach John Spencer clearly has work to do to get the team better motivated — though its hard to imagine that being an issue at home — and more importantly, must find the answer to the question of why the Timbers are giving up early goals and digging themselves a hole out of which they aren't able to completely climb.

A highlight-film goal from rookie Darlington Nagbe in the 45th minute and a match against rival Seattle next weekend should help raise some spirits, but the Timbers are currently staring at a six-game winless streak. They've lost three straight at home, which seemed preposterous to think about after wins in all of their first five games at Jeld-Wen Field to open their inaugural campaign.

C.J. Sapong, who seems to be getting better week after week, opened the scoring by beating Portland defenders Eric Brunner and the late-arriving Futty Danso and shooting the ball past goalkeeper Troy Perkins in the 15th minute.

The Timbers dropped to 0-8-3 when allowing a game's opening goal.

With their substitutes called off the bench immediately to start warming up — Spencer seemed to be sending a message to his starters to pick things up or he wouldn't be afraid to yank one before halftime — Perkins saved a Roger Espinoza shot in the 18th minute. But he couldn't do anything about the way his backline was positioned for SKC defender Matt Besler's 19th-minute throw-in. The ball came in toward Sapong, who got a flick on the ball to his right where defender Aurelien Collin was waiting for a header into the goal.

The Timbers looked listless on offense until one magical strike from Nagbe, the No. 2 overall pick in this year's Superdraft. Nagbe juggled, taking two mid-air touches before firing from distance to the left corner of the net and past goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen to make it 2-1 at halftime.

The Timbers looked energized early in the second half, especially after Perkins miraculously stopped a shot on point from Omar Bravo in the 51st minute. Forward Jorge Perlaza had nothing between he and Nielsen with a shot in the 57th minute, but Nielsen saved it.

In the 67th minute, Kenny Cooper came off the bench for Portland, but by then SKC was in lockdown mode. The final true opportunity for a Timbers equalizer came in the 89th minute, as former KC player Jack Jewsbury tried a long-distance strike that had some power to it. The shot went wide left, however, and SKC was never threatened again.

Portland fell to 5-8-3 and at 18 points, is tied for eighth place in the West.


  1. Well, u will not a find a player really that has the length and size to turn the defender like he does. He is starting to figure out how to use his superior athleticism. If he can continue to develop, on a couple years he could be an absolute beast at 24

  2. i’ll probably get mocked for hyperbole, i think he has a better one-touch turn than any US forward (outside of when dempsey is playing the position) playing right now. very smooth player.

  3. Great goal. No Doubt. Couldn’t tell if it nicked the defenders head to send it into the upper corner but either way great goal!!

  4. TFC’s base hasn’t faded and now they have 2 solid players to add to the fold. MLS is as competitive as ever…even Vancouver would beat most lower table teams anywhere.

  5. Another PDX loss, but reinforcements should be coming. The Nagbe goal may be up there with Hassli’s…f’n sick

  6. hahaha! I wish Portland the best, I hope their fan base does not fade away like Toronto’s after a few disappointing seasons. On the other hand, if Omar Bravo can get some shots to go in this team shouldnt have a problem making the playoffs. A bit disappointed as an MLS fan,A LOT of mediocre teams(most)this year.

  7. The Timbers played like an All-Star team and not in the way that they played well, but in the way like they had never played as a team together before. Just long stretches of sending passes to areas where no one was making runs, etc. Also you could see Troy Perkins getting frustrated with his back four in the first half. It will be interesting to see how John Spencer motivates this group.


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