Opening Whistle - 10th Minute: Instead of opening the game getting a feel for the opponent, both teams came out gunning for the opening goal. There was a lot of box to box soccer but the lion's share of the chances were created by Sporting Kansas City.
10' - 25': After the initial sprint, the Portland Timbers fell off the pace but Sporting did not as they fell into a good offensive rhythm. With the rhythm, they were able to possess the ball and work it around the field. They probed one side and then moved the ball around to the other when they were cut off by Portland's defense. Despite the dominance, Andrew Weber and the defensive unit were able to deal with the dangerous balls and kept Sporting from scoring the opening goal.
With Sporting on the front foot and Portland dealing with some pressure, the game started to get a little chippy with some physical play. The physical play lead to some dangerous free kicks for Sporting but Portland's usually glaring weakness was not exposed.
25' - Timbers' Goal: Earlier in the year, Portland was notorious for starting slow and this was again the case in this US Open Cup game. For the first 25 minutes the Timbers did not register a shot, but for some reason at the 25 minute mark a switch was flipped and the Timbers started finding their offense. Over a 5 minute period, the Timbers took multiple shots and put Sporting under pressure. The pressure paid off as Sporting was not able to clear a ball in their box and Gaston Fernandez pounced on the ball, calmly placing the ball into the back of the net.
Goal - half time: Once Portland scored, the game opened up again and both teams looked like they were comfortable on the ball. However, as the half progressed, Portland slowly started to drop deeper and was content to allow Sporting to pass the ball around their back four.
Restart - Final Whistle: The second half was much like the first half with Sporting controlling the ball for long periods, while Portland waited to spring the counter as they sat on a one goal lead. Portland's strategy won the day as they frustrated Sporting with some stout defense and their counter attacks proved to be the right recipe to win the game.
Portland's first goal of the half was a PK which was created by some deft dribbling by Steve Zakuani. Even though Aurelien Collin did get ball, the referee deemed he must have used excessive force on the tackle. Will Johnson and Fernandez did not get in an argument over this one, and Johnson calmly stepped up to the spot to slot the ball home. The second goal was a classic counter with few numbers committed forward, but they hit the right passes and Fernandez was in the right spot for the rebound.
Sporting did finally find the back of the net when they too were awarded a PK for a handball in the box. They could get no closer to scoring after the PK and Portland went on to win and set up a showdown against the Seattle Sounders in the quarterfinals.
Crazy to think about that almost all of those players could be replaced for the true starting 11 when the two teams meet again on Friday. The only player that might see a start in both games is Will Johnson.
Portland is starting to hit a good stride with one loss in their last nine and are unbeaten in their last four.
Taylor Peay earned his first professional start and he played well. Not great, but well enough to continue to get possible minutes in situations like this game.
Kalif was a thorn in Sporting's side when they gave him time and space on the wing.
Andrew Weber played a great game and deserved a shutout. Too bad a PK was called.