Sporting Kansas City continued the club’s 2022 preseason, presented by Children’s Mercy, with a 2-2 draw against the Portland Timbers on Thursday at Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex at Wild Horse Pass in Chandler, Arizona.
Nicolas Isimat-Mirin and Johnny Russell bagged goals to highlight a dominant first-half performance for Sporting before the Timbers rallied in the second stanza through Aodhan Quinn and Felipe Mora.
Manager Peter Vermes' men enjoyed the lion's share of possession early and carved out their first chance inside 15 minutes. Making his preseason debut, left back Ben Sweat nutmegged his marker near the left endline and cut the ball back to Roger Espinoza, whose first-time delivery to the far post was nearly swung home by the sliding Russell.
Isimat-Mirin fired Sporting into a deserved lead in the 18th minute, punctuating a fluid attack down the right side. The French center back marched into the attacking third and spread a pass to Graham Zusi, who dribbled patiently before swinging a low cross into the penalty area for the on-running Isimat-Mirin, whose deftly taken finish gave Timbers goalkeeper Aljaz Ivacic no chance. The play gave Sporting their first goal of the preseason campaign on an expertly crafted move by the team's right-sided defenders.
Fellow Frenchman Remi Walter almost doubled Sporting's advantage near the half-hour mark, bending a wonderfully struck free kick over Portland's four-man wall from 30 yards, but Ivacic dove left at full extension to cast aside the admirable effort. At the opposite end, goalkeeper Tim Melia produced a strong save of his own by dropping low to smother Santiago Moreno's long-range drive.
Russell was in blistering form over the latter half of 2021, bagging 12 goals from late August onward, and he opened his preseason scoring account in the 34th minute with more magic on the right flank. The Scottish winger advanced into the box, cut the ball onto his patented left peg and stroked far into the left corner to make the score 2-0.
Wholesale changes at halftime saw European newcomers Logan Ndenbe and Robert Voloder earn their preseason debuts on the left side of Sporting's defense. Ndenbe was acquired in a transfer from French outfit Guingamp, while Voloder has joined the MLS ranks from Slovenian powerhouse NK Maribor.
The Timbers would grab a goal back six minutes after the restart. Quinn, a Portland guest player why plies his trade for Phoenix Rising FC in the USL Championship, unleashed a low blast that took a fortuitous deflection into the back of the net past a stranded John Pulskamp.
Portland leveled terms on the final consequential play of the match. Capitalizing on a costly giveaway, Timbers forward Felipe Mora pounced on a loose ball and slotted low to ensure a sharing of the spoils between the Western Conference rivals.
Sporting will return to Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex on Wednesday for an exhibition against USL Championship side El Paso Locomotive. Kickoff is set for 12 p.m. CT with live updates available via @SKCmatchday on Twitter.
Sporting Kansas City vs. Portland Timbers
Feb. 3, 2022 – Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex (Chandler, Ariz.)
Sporting Kansas City 2, Portland Timbers 2
SKC -- Nicolas Isimat Mirin 18'
SKC -- Johnny Russell 34'
POR -- Aodhan Quinn 51'
POR -- Felipe Mora 90'
Sporting Kansas City Lineups
First Half: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi, Nicolas Isimat-Mirin, Andreu Fontas, Ben Sweat (Spencer Glass 23'); Uri Rosell, Remi Walter, Roger Espinoza (Cam Duke 35'); Johnny Russell, Khiry Shelton, Daniel Salloi
Second Half: John Pulskamp; Kayden Pierre, Aljaz Dzankic ^, Robert Voloder, Logan Ndenbe; Jose Mauri, Felipe Hernandez, Cam Duke (Jake Davis 75'); Grayson Barber, Ozzie Cisneros, Tyler Freeman
^ Sporting KC II player
Sporting Kansas City Preseason Schedule & Results
- Saturday, Jan. 29 | T 0-0 vs. Colorado Rapids
- Thursday, Feb. 3 | T 2-2 vs. Portland Timbers
- Wednesday, Feb. 9 | 12 p.m. CT | vs. El Paso Locomotive FC
- Saturday, Feb. 12 | 5:30 p.m. CT | vs. Phoenix Rising FC
- Saturday, Feb. 19 | 3 p.m. CT | vs. Austin FC