The Portland Timbers started with a defensive minded line-up and it paid off with their first shut out of the year. Offensively Portland only managed 2 shots on goal, and both of those were easily saved, but SKC were gracious visitors and put one in for Portland. 1-0 win for Portland.
John Spencer sent out a line-up with some interesting changes. Lovel Palmer was inserted into the center of the pitch to take over Captain Jack Jewsbury's role. Captain Jack was pushed up the field and Diego Chara was moved to a wing, which pushed Eric Alexander to the bench. When the line-up was announced everyone in the press box was wondering what kind of dirt Palmer must have on Spencer, because he has started so many games despite not playing well this year.
For the first 5 minutes of the game the pace of play was in favor of Sporting KC with a lot of end to end action. Portland slowly started to gain control of the game but a defensive mistake by Hanyer Mosquera almost cost Portland in the 8th minute. A long throw-in found CJ Sapong in the corner of the field where he was able to turn Mosquera and attack the goal. Sapong's pass back to Kei Kamara was perfect but Kamara's execution, thankfully, was lacking, as he hit his shot right at Troy Perkins.
From that point on an ugly game broke out with both teams playing physical soccer. Even with the physical play Portland and Sporting KC had their chances, but they were few and far between, with the next chance for either team coming in the 17th minute. Sporting KC was able to find Sapong at the top of the box with his back to the goal, where he was able to turn Steve Purdy and have a shot, but Purdy recovered nicely to deflect the shot out for a corner.
Portland and Sporting KC would then go the rest of the half without a shot on goal. Despite not having a shot on goal from the 25th minute on, Portland still went into the half with a 1-0 lead. For the final 5 minutes of the half Portland seemed to up their pace and tried to put their foot on the gas to find the opening goal.
This was evident in the 41st minute when Mosquera won a long goal kick from Jimmy Nielsen. Mosco then tried to play a long pass to Kris Boyd but Matt Belser was able to intercept the ball with his head. The second 50/50 ball bounced right to Chara who hit a great through ball to Boyd. Boyd found himself wide with acres of space and hit a perfect cross to the back post. Unfortunately for the Timbers Nagbe was the closest player to the ball and he was 10 yards behind the two Sporting KC Defenders. Both Sporting KC players, Chance Meyers and Juilo Cesar went for the ball.
Meyers was going to head it by, while Cesar was going to kick it, and, by sticking his foot up there to kick it, Cesar caused Meyers to miss hit the ball with his head. The miss hit was right into the bottom corner and into the back of the net. Just goes to show you that anything can happen if you get the ball into dangerous spots with defenders retreating.
Portland almost opened the second half with a bang. Sporting KC lost the ball deep in Portland's half when Captain Jack tracked back to win the ball. He then passed an outlet pass to Chara who played it to a central Darlington Nagbe. Nagbe hit a "thread the needle" type pass to a sprinting Chara. Chara was behind the defense at this point and had two wide open teammates in Boyd and Perlaza crashing the box and he hit a great pass towards both of them. Perlaza deferred to Boyd but Nielsen came off his line quickly to close Boyd down and deflected Boyd's shot wide.
Boyd's chance was the last shot on goal for Portland and that was in the 46th minute. If I told you Portland went 44 minutes in the second half with out a shot on goal you probably would have thought Portland lost and most likely lost big. It was not the case this time. While Portland as not able to get a shot on goal they did create chances but the shots where mainly deflected or were off target.
While Portland went 44 minutes with out a shot on goal Sporting KC was just as anemic offensively as Portland continued to play great team defense. While there were the usual mistakes -- every team has them -- Portland recovered as a team and forced Sporting KC to work for their chances.
Sporting did not get any sort of chance in the second half until the 80th minute when they were trying to steal a point and were throwing everyone forward. Kamara worked his way from the wing to the center of the park with the ball and tried a long range shot. Troy Perkins tracked it all the way and easily saved the ball. From that point on Portland tried to take the sting out of the game with some possession and long balls to the corner.
Even with Portland doing well to kill time in the final minutes, Sporting KC had a couple last gasp chances in them; the first of those chances came in the 86th minute. Sporting KC were relentless in their attack and were able to hit a cross into a crowded box. The first ball was challenged by Brunner and won but made it only as far as a crashing Meyers, who hit a first time shot but this too was blocked by Brunner. The rebound went right back to Meyers who this time tried to chip the ball into the middle but Brunner again got up and headed it away. The ball then ended up at the top of the box where Kamara hit a shot which, you guessed it, was deflected wide by Brunner.
With bodies flying all over it could have easily been a lot worse but Brunner by himself was a wrecking crew with 4 blocks in a row which is impressive. His CB partner was no less impressive and in the first minute of stoppage time came up huge. A long throw into the box was headed right to Perkins but he was challenged by Teal Bunbury, who throw up his hand to try and get Perkins to mess up. Perkins did make a mess of it as the ball went right through his hands. Thankfully Mosco did his CB duty and back tracked into the goal where he was able to back heel the ball off the line and into the arms of Perkins.
Sporting KC continued their desperate play but Portland finally gained some possession and was able to salt the game away for a confidence boosting 1-0 win over the best team in MLS.
- Without a doubt Palmer's best game this year and possibly as a Timber. He shut down Graham Zusi and really played a huge role in the shutout.
- The Timbers' CB partnership of Mosco and Brunner is a tough nut to crack as long as the outside backs are not making mistake after mistake.
- Credit to Spencer for putting a line-up out there that countered Sporting KC's style of play.
- It was ugly but sometimes an ugly win is just what is needed to go on a win streak.
- Captain Jack played his best game all year.
- A Great "team" defense game and something Portland can build on going forward
- Apparently the TA wanted to burn the house down as a smoke bomb caught on fire and was shooting flames 6 ft into the air until it could be extinguished.
- Writing this recap felt so much better than the previous 4 :)