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Storylines: Sporting Kansas City vs Portland Timbers

Timbers head out on the road for the last time in 2019.

SOCCER: SEP 07 MLS - Sporting Kansas City at Portland Timbers Photo by Diego Diaz/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Story So Far

There are times when a draw seems like a win; Wednesday night was not one of them. The Timbers would end their scoring drought thanks to a Jeremy Ebobisse brace, but a late New England goal and a janky PK call drew the teams level. The Revolution picked up an important point on the road, and the Timbers dropped precious points at home.

Sporting Kansas City will be looking to rebound against the Timbers. They took the L against a hot Minnesota United club midweek. Their lone goal coming in the seventh minute, by centerback Botond Barath. SKC are playing for pride now, as they’ve been eliminated from the MLS playoff race with that loss.

Can the Timbers get a must-win on the road in hostile Kansas City, or will Sporting KC play party pooper and deny the Timbers of much needed points as they march towards the playoffs?

What to Watch for

Sporting Kansas City (10-15-7, 37 pts)

SKC vs Minnesota United

The last time these two teams met was at Providence Park on September 7, and the Timbers would come away with a 2-1 victory. As I mentioned, this Sporting KC side has really nothing to play for but pride and the off-season. What a difference a season makes: They finished at the top of the Western Conference in 2018 and were playoff bound; now they sit in 11th place and have been eliminated from the playoffs.

It looks like Peter Vermes rotated his lineup a bit against the Loons. So it’ll be interesting to see what kind of lineup he puts out on Sunday evening. Against the Loons, Vermes rolled out a 4-2-3-1, which is only the third time this season he’s used that particular formation. For the most part, SKC runs a 4-3-3 with Krisztián Nemeth as the main striker. Nemeth is second on the team with seven goals so far this season, and he’s nabbed a couple helpers as well.

We could see a bit more rotation on Sunday, or Vermes could very well trot out a full strength 11 to play spoiler to the Timbers. I look at it this way: SKC has nothing to lose and the Timbers have everything to lose by dropping points this late in the season.

Sporting KC love to run the offside trap, which will cause some problems for the Timbers forwards. Look for one-touch football in and around the box, though they do like to take their shots from distance. They also like to hold on to the ball and play possession football, daring the opposing team to get aggressive and come at them. They’ve been averaging 52.4 percent possession this season.

One of the players the you need to be on the look out for is 28-year-old Chilean midfielder Felipe Gutierrez. He leads the team with 12 goals; he’s made 29 starts this season, only coming off the bench once. You can find him in the defensive midfield, but don’t let that fool you — he’s known to get forward and can put the ball in the back of the net.

Also be on the lookout for 29-year-old Scotland International Johnny Russell. This season he’s collected 9 goals and 5 assists. In my opinion he’s the one guy that the Timbers need to contain. He fast, crafty, and not afraid to mix it up and get in on goal. The Timbers full backs will have their hands full with Russell.

Portland Timbers (13-13-6, 45 pts)

Timbers vs New England Revolution

Even with the dropped points, the Timbers currently occupy sixth place in the Western Conference, though tied with FC Dallas because of tie-breakers. Portland sits in the sixth spot, while Dallas sits in the seventh and final playoff spot. Right now the Timbers’ destiny is in their own hands. Essentially the Timbers can’t drop points in either of these last two matchups. Sitting in sixth is a precarious situation: FCD is tied on points, and San Jose — while under the playoff line — are only a point out of a playoff spot themselves ... and the Timbers will face San Jose on Decision Day.

Nothing is written in stone just yet.

One thing the Timbers will have to do is put Wednesday night behind them. Yes, there was a bit of let down with the called PK — especially since it had happened to Ebobisse on the opposite end and it wasn’t called — but Mabiala did it, deep into stoppage time (past the allotted four minutes).

For the first time in a while the Timbers are all healthy; still on the injured list are Modou Jadama, Julio Cascante, and Andres Flores (listed as questionable). Tuiloma has been great filling in for Cascante. who was having a pretty good season until his injury. Maybe he’ll be back for the playoffs, but right now the Timbers can’t think about that.

Thanks to Jeremy Ebobisse, the Timbers ended their scoring drought at 319 minutes. A beautiful header and a odd goal. I’ll let you make the call on what to call it. If you need your memory refreshed, here it is.

On thing I’d like to see happen is a return to the line-up for Brian Fernandez. I know he hasn’t been the same since he first joined the team — but he’s needed. One could make the argument that Ebobisse should get the start just based on his performance on Wednesday, but Gio may rotate the side a bit, since they’ve again had only three days rest.

Log Slices

Wednesday’s match marked the tenth consecutive home match for the Timbers — the longest homestand in MLS history.

Jeremy Ebobisse notched the first brace of his MLS career in the match. Ebobisse is the 17th Timbers player to record a brace in an MLS match.

Despite failing to win in four matches, Portland currently sit sixth in the Western Conference playoff race by one point.

Blanco is the fourth Timbers player across all eras of the club to have multiple seasons with 11 or more assists, joining Diego Valeri, Willie Anderson, and John Bain.