The Portland Timbers and Sporting Kansas City played to a typical stalemate between the two sides on Saturday night, drawing 0-0 in a match that saw only a handful of chances created for either side. The draw leaves the Timbers’ unbeaten streak at eight league matches.
The early minutes of the match were tests of youth versus experience on the flanks as Timbers homegrown player Marco Farfan saw off Sporting winger Johnny Russell on one side of the pitch, while on the other it was Diego Valeri squaring off against SKC homegrown Jaylin Lindsey. There were nervy moments for both sides, but real chances were few and far between and neither the Timbers nor Sporting could take control of the match.
As play continued on, the roles of both sides became clear. The Timbers set up in a deep line, inviting SKC to push forward, commit to the attack, and leave space for the sort of flowing counter attacks that Diego Valeri and Sebastian Blanco flourish in. Kansas City, meanwhile, were happy to set up shop in the Timbers end, looking to use their speed on the wings to create opportunities from out wide.
Late in the first half the match looked likely to turn chippy as Sporting turned up the physicality of the match. First and errant arm to the chin of Fanendo Adi went unpunished, then Lindsey caught the back of Valeri’s leg with a scissoring tackle while clearing the ball away. After some light pushing and shoving as Zarek Valentin took exception to some Sporting players trying to take the ball away from him as he looked to play it out for Valeri, things seemed to cool down.
The first full blooded chance of the match finally came in the 41st minute as Russell was able to get around Farfan on a driving run to the end line, only to have his cross into the box blocked away by the Timbers youngster. The deflected ball looped high in the air before falling to Sporting forward Daniel Salloi inside the Timbers box. Salloi turned and hit a shot from close range, only to see the ball crash off the crossbar and away from goal.
The Timbers had a chance of their own in the 56th minute after a long spell of possession in the Sporting half. With the Kansas City defense being pulled back and forth as the Timbers probed for an opportunity, an opening finally came when Sebastian Blanco received the ball wide on the Timbers’ left and hit a long, curling cross to the back post. Rising up above the Sporting defense, Adi was able to put a head on the ball, skipping it down off the turf and on goal only for SKC keeper Tim Melia to react quickly and get just enough of the ball to put it wide of goal.
Sporting forced a save from Jeff Attinella in the 72nd minute when the visitors managed a quick break down the pitch, finding Roger Espinoza at the top of the Timbers’ box. With a moment to line up his shot, Espinoza tried to pick out the far post, only for Attinella to lay out and push the ball wide. Then, in the 76th minute, Sporting came close again as Graham Zusi cut inside and hit a hard near post shot that Attinella again parried away.
The final moments of the match were not one-way traffic, however, and the Timbers had an opportunity of their own in 81st minute. With the Timbers breaking quickly down the pitch, substitute Samuel Armenteros played Blanco down the left flank. Cutting inside, Blanco hit a hard, curling ball that Melia could only wave at only for the shot to skim over the bar.
The Timbers now have a week off from league play for the World Cup, but will be back in action at Providence Park on Saturday when they take on the LA Galaxy in the fifth round of the U.S. Open Cup.