The Portland Timbers overcame a game Sporting Kansas City side today to win 3-1 and advance to the quarterfinals of the US Open Cup. With a brace from Gaston Fernandez and a penalty converted by team captain Will Johnson, the Timbers continued their recent high-scoring ways in Kansas.
The Timbers opened the scoring in the 30', having beaten back the early pressure from SKC. On the break down the field, Kalif Alhssan drove with the ball down the right flank, getting around one man and taking the ball to the end line, before playing a sharply cut pass back to Fernandez in the center of the box. With space in which to operate, Fernandez lined up his shot and rolled it past Andy Gruenebaum to put the Timbers up 1-0.
Shortly into the second half, the Timbers increased their lead when Steve Zakuani, now playing on the right flank, cut inside in the 56' and went directly at the Kansas City defense. Stepping over the ball and cutting around one man, Zakuani looked like he might be in on goal, pushing the ball past SKC stalwart Aurelien Collin and in on goal, only to have Collin stick his leg out, getting some of the ball, but all of Zakuani. Referee Ricardo Salazar had no hesitation pointing to the spot, despite Collin's protestations.
With Johnson and Fernandez both on the field, Timbers fans collectively worried that the two would show some sort of bad blood from their squabbles over who would take the penalty the Timbers won against FC Dallas two weeks ago. This time, however, it was clear cut: Johnson stepped up to the spot and coolly converted, then Fernandez arrived and congratulated him, putting the episode to bed and the Timbers up 2-0.
Finally, in the 68', the Timbers would get their final insurance goal of the night, once again on a quick break down the pitch. After a turnover and some fast passes down the pitch, Maximiliano Urruti carried the ball into the heart of the SKC defense. With players on either side looking for him to lay off the ball, Urruti instead cut the ball onto his left foot and, pushing the ball to the side to make space for himself, fired off a hard shot on goal. Grunebaum was equal to the shot, knocking it down and away only to have the ball land at the feet of Fernandez, who was crashing in on the goal. With not a defender in sight and Gruenenbaum prone on the ground, Fernandez only had to tap the ball home to put the Timbers up 3-0.
SKC would eventually pull back a goal of their own in the 73' as Danny O'Rourke's trailing hand intercepted a low cross that he was sliding to block in the Timbers' box. It was Soony Saad who took the penalty kick for Kansas City and he converted his opportunity well, sending Andrew Weber, who had an otherwise stellar night, the wrong way and knocking the ball into the back of the net. The goal pulled Kansas City back within two and gave the host team hope for the final quarter of an hour, but it was not to be and the game ended with the Timbers up 3-1.