Providence Park has rightfully earned the reputation as one of the toughest places to play in Major League Soccer. Home to a 111-game sellout streak, the vaunted venue boasts an electric atmosphere that gives the Portland Timbers a palpable advantage against any visiting opponent.
Case in point: since 2013, Portland has lost just 12 of 72 regular season matches at Providence Park. That’s a paltry 16.7 percent success rate for road teams emerging with all three points.
Since the Timbers joined Major League Soccer in 2011, however, there has been one opponent largely immune to the typical travails away teams experience at Providence Park.
Sporting Kansas City claimed a gutsy 1-0 victory at Portland on Saturday night, using Dom Dwyer’s 53rd-minute header to jump within a point of the first-place Timbers in the Western Conference. In doing so, Manager Peter Vermes’ men claimed their fourth regular season road win at Providence Park, two more than any other club in MLS.
The result also saw Sporting Kansas City continue its miserly ways on the defensive side, as goalkeeper Tim Melia collected his league-leading fourth shutout and made an eye-popping save to deny Darlington Nagbe in the late stages.
Admittedly, Portland can still claim bragging rights for winning the lone postseason meeting between the sides — a pulsating 2-2 draw in 2015 that was decided by an 11-round penalty kick shootout — but the fact remains that Sporting Kansas City has posted clean sheets in four of its last five regular season visits to the Rose City.
“I said this all week long, [Portland] is the best team going forward in the league right now,” Vermes declared postgame, referring to the Timbers’ league-best 16 goals scored. “They execute. We know that they’re coming in arguably the best team in the league. So for us to come in here, it was going to be a massive game and we walk away with a massive three points.”
MOST REGULAR SEASON ROAD WINS AT PROVIDENCE PARK
|Sporting Kansas City||4|
Seattle Sounders FC
MOST REGULAR SEASON ROAD SHUTOUTS AT PROVIDENCE PARK
|Sporting Kansas City||4|
|Real Salt Lake||3|
By keeping Portland goalless on Saturday, Sporting Kansas City snapped the Timbers’ 21-game home scoring streak — a formidable run that began immediately following Portland’s 1-0 defeat to Sporting KC on Oct. 3, 2015.
A fourth straight road shutout for Sporting Kansas City ties the regular season club record and is tied for the third longest such streak in MLS history, as the table below illustrates. Sporting KC also becomes just the sixth team to ever open a season with three consecutive road shutouts.
LONGEST REGULAR SEASON ROAD SHUTOUTS STREAKS IN MLS HISTORY
|7 games||LA Galaxy||10/18/09||05/29/10|
|5 games||Chivas USA||09/20/08||04/11/09|
|4 games||Sporting Kansas City||10/16/16||?|
|4 games||Portland Timbers||05/28/16||07/10/16|
|4 games||Vancouver Whitecaps FC||10/10/14||03/21/15|
|4 games||Real Salt Lake||10/17/14||04/11/15|
|4 games||Houston Dynamo||09/24/11||03/17/12|
With Week 7 in the books, Sporting Kansas City is one of two remaining unbeaten teams in MLS. The other? Next Saturday's opponent, FC Dallas.
The high-profile battle of the unbeatens will kick off at 7 p.m. CT at Toyota Stadium, where FC Dallas has lost just three times over the last three seasons. But if anyone knows how to churn out results in opposing fortresses, it just might be Sporting KC.
“We know that when you go on road and you play a good team in a hostile environment, it’s not going to be perfect,” said Sporting KC captain Matt Besler, who earned his 200th regular season start on Saturday. “There are going to be periods in the game where you’re going to have to come up with some plays on the defensive end, and fortunately we were able to do that tonight.”