After a couple of hours to catch our collective breath, today’s PTFC double-header continues with the Portland Timbers playing host to Western Conference rivals Sporting Kansas City this evening in a match that could be the Timbers’ most difficult to date.
While the Timbers are on top of the league, they have yet to come up against a lock-down defense like Kansas City’s — one that has only allowed two goals in five games, including scoreless draws against FC Dallas and Toronto FC. The Timbers’ front six is perhaps the best in MLS, but they will have to be on their game to break down this committed SKC squad who will undoubtedly be defending with commitment from striker Dom Dwyer on back.
There are few obvious weaknesses to point to in SKC’s defensive set up and the pair of goals that the team have allowed have come late in the match in desperate circumstances for their opposition. However, while SKC’s defense has not yet been cracked in 2017, their attack has yet to put forward a totally convincing performance.
Dwyer is a known quantity and Benny Feilhaber may be set to make his return from a two-week injury layoff, but even with their attacking lynchpins on the field, Sporting have been struggling to score before last weekend’s 3-1 demolition of the Colorado Rapids. In their first four games, Sporting scored only two goals, both coming in a 2-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes and one of which was a potential worst goal of the year nominee when Quakes keeper David Bingham let a ball roll through his legs and accidentally redirected it into the goal rather than rolling wide.
The three goals scored by Sporting in their most recent match certainly show off some of their potential, but that match came against a gutted Rapids side that were missing recently traded defensive pieces Sam Cronin and Marc Burch and still adjusting to an abrupt change in heading.
The Timbers back line might still be more cobbled-together than fans would prefer, but at this point the foursome has shown that they can defend at least competently and should be able to keep some of the pressure off, particularly if Jake Gleeson can continue his current upswing in form and come up with an important save or two.
Vytas is again on the verge of making his return to the side, but with Marco Farfan playing well and questions about the Lithuanian’s form and fitness remaining after a long injury layoff to start the season, his reinsertion into the starting XI is far form a sure thing.
Watch it on: KPDX
Where: Providence Park in Portland, OR
When: Saturday, April 15th at 7:30 p.m. PT
Portland Timbers: 4-1-1, 1st place in the Western Conference, Won 3-1 at Philadelphia Union
Sporting Kansas City: 2-0-3, 4th place in the Western Conference, Won 3-1 vs. Colorado Rapids