The Portland Timbers could not find a way past the packed in defense of Sporting Kansas City tonight at Providence Park as the visitors managed to come away with all three points. A lone SKC goal was the difference in the night's frustrating, foul filled match.
It looked like the Timbers had pulled ahead in the game's 14' as they broke down the pitch with the ball at the feet of Diego Chara. Picking his head up, Chara picked out Darlington Nagbe on the right wing and played a rolling pass for him to run onto. With the ball out wide, Nagbe stepped inside of his defender and played a perfectly bent cross behind the SKC back line, finding Fanendo Adi, who powered a headed shot past Kansas City keeper Eric Kronberg. As Providence Park erupted, however, the linesman was raising his flag and the goal was whistled back as Adi was judged to have been offside.
With the Timbers' nascent momentum stopped, the first half saw SKC slowing the game down any way they could and looking to take advantage of their strength and the Timbers' weakness: set pieces. With an added threat from the cannon-like throw of Seth Sinovic, who was instructed to take every throw-in in the Timbers' defensive third, SKC dropped balls into the Timbers box at every opportunity.
The strategy paid off in the 24' as Sinovic jogged to the sideline for a long throw on the Timbers' right. Launching the ball into the box, it bounced on open ground, ricocheted off of Kevin Ellis and fell nicely to former USL Timber Laurence Olum. Without a defender on him, Olum had the moment necessary to take the measure of Donovan Ricketts and slot the ball low and to Rickett's right, beating the Timbers' keeper and putting SKC up 1-0.
From there on Kansas City locked their defense down, frustrating the Timbers time and again, with a powerful aerial game, disciplined positioning, and plenty of fouls. As Portland pressed forward harder and harder, eventually going to three, then two, at the back, Kansas City continued to sit back and absorb the Timbers pressure.
The Timbers never gave up and continued to try and try to break down MLS's best defense until the final minute. It was for naught, however, as the referee blew the final whistle with the Timbers still scoreless. Now halfway through the season, the Timbers find themselves one loss below .500 and in 8th place in the Western Conference by points per game.