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For the second straight weekend, frustration was the name of the game as a superior Sporting Kansas City side came away with less than three points.
In a Saturday night trip to the Portland Timbers at 80-percent-full Providence Park—seven days after settling for a home point against Austin FC—Sporting slipped to a narrow 2-1 defeat despite enjoying the better run of play over the course of 90 minutes.
However, anyone searching for silver linings in the loss won’t have to look hard. For starters, Manager Peter Vermes’ men remain in second place in the Western Conference ahead of a huge Wednesday night home tilt against the third-place Colorado Rapids at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets for the crucial clash are available at SeatGeek.com as former captain and goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen gets inducted into the Sporting Legends hall of honor.
Secondly, the visitors—for all intents and purposes—controlled proceedings from beginning to end with two-thirds of possession and a 19-7 edge in shots.
“Today we missed a couple of really good chances (and) that happens sometimes,” Vermes said postgame. “There is nothing you can say when you look at the way that we played. I get it, it’s all about winning. Believe me, that’s at the forefront of every game we play. Outside of losing the game, I feel really good about the fact that the guys are in sync with each other and the quality in which we play is very good. It’s going to get results. We drove the game at someone else’s place.”
What does driving the game at someone else’s place look like, exactly?
Consider this: the Timbers have played 168 regular season home matches at Providence Park since joining MLS in 2011. Their minus-12 shot discrepancy was the second-lowest in a regular season home game, their four chances created were fourth-lowest, and their 34.8% possession was sixth-lowest.
Sporting were well-positioned in the 28th minute when right back Jaylin Lindsey bagged a brilliant goal—more on that in a minute—but Portland exhibited a lethal precision with two strikes before halftime from Dairon Asprilla and Marvin Loria that ultimately stood as difference makers.
“They scored their goals and they won,” Vermes said, “but I’m very encouraged by the way that we’re playing at the moment.”
The longest-tenured head coach in MLS history will be especially encouraged by the performances of three Sporting Kansas City Academy products on Saturday.
We begin with the 21-year-old Lindsey, whose sweetly struck goal near the half-hour mark made him just the second defender in Kansas City history to score in back-to-back regular season road matches.
Lindsey accomplished the feat 10 years after Frenchman Aurelien Collin became the first defender to do it. Collin actually scored in three straight regular season road appearances from June 12 to July 16 in 2011, but only two of his goals—the ones on July 2 and July 16—came in consecutive away games for the club.
Ike Opara also scored in back-to-back road appearances on May 19 and July 20 in 2013, but Sporting played a handful of away matches between those two dates.
Midfielder Gianluca Busio
At the ripe age of 19, Gianluca Busio continues to dazzle with displays well beyond his years. The all-action midfielder finished with game-highs in chances created (three), successful crosses (four) and duels won (nine). His three tackles won were bested only by Lindsey and Portland’s Claudio Bravo, who had four each.
Midfielder Felipe Hernandez
Earning his first start of the season after making an impressive cameo appearance off the bench in last weekend’s home game against Austin FC, Felipe Hernandez went agonizingly close to equalizing in the 67th minute, as his shot deflected inches wide of the frame. In a sound 90-minute performance, the 22-year-old had three total shots and set single-game career-highs in passes (33), passes successful (27) and 12 combined tackles (three) and duels (nine).
Fortunately for Sporting (5-2-2, 17 points), the opportunity to bounce back will come quickly as the red-hot Rapids (5-2-1, 16 points) visit Kansas City in three days’ time for what could be a defining Western Conference battle.
“The obvious thing is you don’t want to give up goals and you want to score your chances,” Vermes said after the game. “I have faith in the team on both sides of the ball. Those things will continue to be worked just like they are normally.”