#ClaimTheCup: Onto the Western Conference Finals

Sporting Kansas City and the Portland Timbers appear to be peaking at the right time.

Led by Manager Peter Vermes, top-seeded Sporting KC are unbeaten in seven matches and eliminated Real Salt Lake from the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs with a wild 4-2 win on Sunday at Children’s Mercy Park.

In the Pacific Northwest, first-year head coach Giovani Savarese has Portland on an undeniable uptick after edging archrival Seattle Sounders FC in a penalty shootout last Thursday following a 4-4 aggregate stalemate.

Now the clubs will meet in the Western Conference Championship with a ticket to MLS Cup 2018 on the line. The first leg at Providence Park is set for Sunday, Nov. 25, at 6:30 p.m. CT on FS1. The decisive second leg in Kansas City will kick off at 8:30 p.m. CT on Thursday, Nov. 29, on ESPN. Tickets for the latter match at Children’s Mercy Park, Sporting KC’s final home game of 2018, are available at SeatGeek.com.

Although not considered a full-blooded rivalry, Sporting KC and Portland have shared some memorable moments since the Timbers joined MLS in 2011. The infamous double post ordeal remains etched in the minds of everyone who watched the epic 2015 Knockout Round match unfold at Providence Park, not unlike Krisztian Nemeth’s jaw-dropping Goal of the Year from four weeks earlier at the same venue.

SportingKC.com has reserved the space below for a pleasant trip down memory lane, taking a chronological look at Sporting KC’s five most memorable victories over the Timbers.

Zusi Strikes Twice
Sporting KC 3-1 Portland Timbers (Aug. 17, 2011)

Graham Zusi earned MLS Breakout Player of the Year honors at the end of 2011, and his masterclass against Portland went a long way in helping him claim the award. In the 25th minute, Zusi unleashed what remains to be one of the best goals of his professional career—a 30-yard canon into the far corner that blew the roof off Children’s Mercy Park. He completed his brace 15 minutes later to put Sporting KC in cruise control.

Not to be outshone by Zusi, MLS debutant Soony Saad would score on his 19th birthday—becoming the club’s youngest regular season goal scorer at the time—to seal a runaway win.

Quick Revenge
Portland Timbers 0-1 Sporting KC (June 27, 2014)

Three days after the Timbers knocked Sporting KC out of the U.S. Open Cup at Children’s Mercy Park, Vermes’ side ventured to Portland with revenge in mind. Lawrence Olum, who would later become an integral member of the Timbers, fired Sporting KC ahead in the 24th minute. A resolute defensive performance kept the hosts off the scoresheet, with Eric Kronberg posting the clean sheet en route to MLS Player of the Month honors a few days later.

Nemeth to the Rescue
Portland Timbers 0-1 Sporting KC (Oct. 3, 2015)

Sporting KC had every excuse to lay an egg in their visit to Portland on the first Saturday of October 2015. Just 72 hours earlier, the club had hoisted the U.S. Open Cup title in Philadelphia after a grueling 120-minute draw and nail-biting penalty shootout. The combination of an emotional hangover and a cross-country trip on short rest simply wasn’t a favorable scenario.

Nevertheless, Sporting KC rose to the occasion in the Rose City. To cap a picture-perfect week, Vermes’ men walked into Providence Park, defended brilliantly and saw Hungarian forward Krisztian Nemeth singlehandedly win the game with one of the most mesmerizing goals in club history. Ten minutes after entering as a substitute, Nemeth embarked on a solo run through the heart of the Portland defense before tucking low into the far corner in the 83rd minute for what turned out to be Sporting KC’s first MLS Goal of the Year winner.

Vermes Hits a Hundred
Sporting KC 1-0 Portland Timbers (July 31, 2016)

Oppressive heat and humidity prevented Sporting KC and Portland from hitting full stride in this summertime matchup at Children’s Mercy Park, but Jacob Peterson’s 50th-minute header was enough to give Vermes his 100th regular season win as Sporting KC’s coach.

Rubio Runs Riot
Sporting KC 3-0 Portland Timbers (Aug. 18, 2018)

Diego Rubio struck twice and Johnny Russell added a late third as Sporting KC ran riot on Portland earlier this year at Children’s Mercy Park.  Rubio spearheaded the performance with goals in the 28th and 37th minutes—the first of which was nothing short of superb—before Russell came off the bench to finish the job. This marked the eighth time in 10 regular season meetings that Sporting KC has shut out Portland dating back to 2014.