Sporting Kansas City (2-6-3, 9 points) re-enters the MLS regular season with a road match against the Portland Timbers (2-3-4, 12 points) at Providence Park on Saturday night.
Kickoff is set for 9 p.m. CT with coverage starting 30-minutes prior to kick on 38 The Spot with the Sporting KC Pregame show. The match can also be streamed in the Sporting KC Mobile App and at SportingKC.com via Sporting One.
Sporting and Portland rekindled their rivalry last season after not facing each other in the 2020 season. The Timbers will come to Kansas City on Aug. 21 in a late-season showdown at Children’s Mercy Park.
Here are five storylines to know heading into this weekend’s Western Conference clash between Sporting Kansas City in the Portland Timbers.
Open cup commotion
Tuesday night, Sporting KC welcomed FC Dallas to Children’s Mercy Park for a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round of 32 matchup. After falling behind 2-0 in the first half, a two-goal rally in the second forced the match into extra time where Sporting netted two more goals to advance to the Round of 16 by way of a 4-2 victory.
Nikola Vujnovic fired home his first career goal in Sporting blue before Marinos Tzionis scored the latest goal in regulation in club history in the eighth minute of second-half stoppage for his first Sporting goal. Khiry Shelton forced an own goal in the first 15 minutes of extra time and put the game on ice with a steal and score in the Dallas box in the 113th minute. Sporting will learn their round of 16 opponent Thursday night at 7:30 in the Round of 16 Draw on ESPN Plus.
Newcomers starting to prosper
Thanks to Vujnovic’s spark and Tzionis’ heroics, Sporting KC survived and advanced in their opening round of the Open Cup. Other key contributors in the match were Ben Sweat, who played the full 120 minutes and Spencer Glass who signed a short-term loan after playing for SKC II on Sunday. The newest members of Sporting KC are starting to find their footing in MLS.
Defender Logan Ndenbe has appeared in nine of Sporting’s first 11 matches of the MLS regular season, including starts in Sporting’s three consecutive draws. Two other focal points of late on the Sporting backline are Kortne Ford and Robert Voloder. Ford earned a nod to the MLS Team of the Week in week eight for his performance in the clean sheet against Columbus and has been a crucial figure in the defensive third as of late. Voloder earned his first MLS start against Dallas and has stepped up in a major way while Nicolas Isimat-Mirin has been sidelined with an injury.
A brief look at Sporting's past decade against Portland
Since joining MLS in 2011, the Portland Timbers have made the playoffs in seven of their first 11 seasons. They have one MLS Cup title, and two more appearances in the MLS Cup Finals, including a trip to the 2021 final. In that same span, Sporting KC has 10 playoff appearances, one MLS Cup title and three U.S. Open Cup trophies. Two perennial, Western Conference powerhouses will be taking the pitch Saturday night in Portland.
In terms of head-to-head battles in the past decade, the series has been relatively even. Portland holds the advantage in the playoffs, knocking Sporting out in the first round of the 2015 playoffs in penalties, and defeating Sporting in the 2018 Western Conference Finals. Sporting takes the cake in the regular season with a record of 7-5-6, including a 4-4-2 record at Portland. Sporting is one of just two teams with a non-losing road record against the Timbers and will look to improve upon that record Saturday night.
Salloi torturing the Timbers
Leading the charge against the Timbers is Sporting KC academy product Daniel Salloi. The Hungarian international has a team-high two goals this season, as well as a team-leading four goals in nine MLS appearances -including the playoffs- against Portland. His first MLS goal came in a 1-1 home draw against Portland on July 1, 2017. Last season, his stoppage-time equalizer earned Sporting a point at home in another 1-1 draw against the Timbers on Aug. 18, 2021.
HIGHLIGHTS: Sporting KC 1-1 Portland Timbers | Aug. 18, 2021
Portland’s recent struggles
After hosting MLS Cup in December 2021, Portland has started off the 2022 season with a large number of draws and two wins. Their six draws are two more than any other MLS side. Currently, the Timbers find themselves in the midst of a five-match winless streak, last taking home three points in a road match at the Vancouver Whitecaps on April 9. Most recently, the Timbers fell out of the Open Cup after losing to LAFC 2-0 on Tuesday night.