Sporting Kansas City suffered a narrow 3-2 defeat to the Portland Timbers on Saturday to close out the 2018 preseason, presented by Children’s Mercy.
Roger Espinoza and Diego Rubio scored on either side of halftime to give Manager Peter Vermes’ men a 2-0 lead, but Portland rallied behind a pair of substitutes as Samuel Armenteros bagged a brace and Cristhian Paredes tallied the match-winner in an entertaining third-place match of the Mobile Mini Sun Cup at Kino Sports Complex in Tucson, Arizona.
With a month-long preseason campaign in the rearview mirror, Sporting KC will kick off the club's 23rd season in Major League Soccer next Sunday, March 4, against New York City FC at world-class Children's Mercy Park. The highly anticipated curtain raiser will kick off at 6:30 p.m. CT on FS1 with tickets available via SeatGeek.com.
A bright start from Sporting KC saw Graham Zusi conjure a pair of scoring chances within the first five minutes. The U.S. international cut onto his left foot and fired just wide from 20 yards before teeing up Espinoza, whose low drive from the top of the box was pushed away by Portland goalkeeper Jake Gleeson.
Early momentum was dampened in the 11th minute, however, as newly acquired Sporting KC forward Khiry Shelton was forced to exit the match with an injury. Rubio was summoned as his replacement, and just two minutes later Felipe Gutierrez sent a thunderous, 30-yard free kick inches wide of Gleeson’s lefthand post.
A pair of Sporting KC’s high-profile offseason signings made their mark halfway through the first half. In the 26th minute, Yohan Croizet carried the ball to the top of the box and squeezed a through ball to Johnny Russell. The Scottish winger attempted to lift the ball over the sprawling Gleeson, but the Portland keeper produced a fine stop to extinguish the danger.
Undeterred, Russell would create the go-ahead goal just a minute later, slipping a delightful pass into the penalty area for Espinoza to bury into the corner of the net for his first preseason tally. Espinoza became the 11th Sporting KC player to score a goal in 2018 exhibition play, while Russell notched his first preseason assist for the club.
Vermes’ men continued to dominate proceedings and went agonizingly close to doubling their advantage in the 34th minute. Russell’s inch-perfect low cross from the left wing was steered marginally high from Rubio at the edge of the six-yard box.
Portland had absorbed punches for much of the first half but almost drew level in the 41st minute when a clipped cutback from Sebastian Blanco struck the hand of Timbers striker Fanendo Adi, who was unable to direct the ball into a gaping net.
Croizet was unfortunate not to double Sporting KC’s cushion in first-half stoppage time. The Frenchman settled a half-cleared corner kick at the top of the box and pulled the trigger through traffic, but David Guzman was positioned on the goal line to make the crucial clearance.
Rubio atoned for his first-half miss seven minutes after the restart, racing onto Cristian Lobato’s decadent through ball to slot low under Gleeson for his second goal in as many matches. Rubio’s cool finish gave Lobato his team-best second assist of the 2018 preseason.
Sporting KC’s 2-0 lead evaporated quickly as Armenteros, who had replaced Adi at halftime, struck twice in the space of five minutes. He bagged his first off an explosive run into the box, finishing clinically past Melia, and restored parity with an opportunistic strike from close range on 59 minutes.
Vermes deployed three subs of his own in the 62nd minute as Zusi, Gutierrez and Russell made way for Jaylin Lindsey, Jimmy Medranda and Daniel Salloi, respectively. Not long later, Gleeson was prompted to make a reflex save when Rubio latched onto Ilie’s in-swinging corner and snapped a header goalward. The Portland keeper thwarted another attack with a quarter-hour remaining, sticking out his foot to deny Croizet near the penalty spot.
Portland’s comeback was complete in the 76th minute, just seconds after Sporting KC introduced three substitutes along the backline. Paredes’ right-footed effort from 15 yards nestled into the far left corner to propel his side in front 3-2.
A late bid for an equalizer came closest to fruition in the 83rd minute when Salloi’s venomous blast off a pass from Espinoza beat Gleeson but rattled the crossbar. The full-time whistle would blow 10 minutes later, drawing a close to both clubs’ preseason preparations in Arizona.
Sporting Kansas City vs. Portland Timbers
2018 Preseason presented by Children’s Mercy
Mobile Mini Sun Cup | Game 4 of 4
Kino Sports Complex | Tucson, Arizona
Weather: 54 degrees and sunny
|Sporting Kansas City||1||1||2|
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi (Jaylin Lindsey 62), Ike Opara (Emiliano Amor 76), Matt Besler (Amer Didic 76), Cristian Lobato (Seth Sinovic 76); Felipe Gutierrez (Jimmy Medranda 62), Ilie, Roger Espinoza; Yohan Croizet, Khiry Shelton (Diego Rubio 11), Johnny Russell (Daniel Salloi 62)
Portland Timbers: Jake Gleeson; Alvas Powell (Zarek Valentin 86), Larrys Mabiala, Liam Ridgewell, Vytas Andriuskevicius (Marco Farfan 69); Lawrence Olum (Cristhian Paredes 46), David Guzman (Andres Flores 92+), Andy Polo, Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco (Dairon Asprilla 78); Fanendo Adi (Samuel Armenteros 46)
POR – Larrys Mabiala (yellow card) 29
POR – Alvas Powell (yellow card) 31
POR – Liam Ridgewell (yellow card) 38
SKC – Diego Rubio (yellow card) 46+
SKC – Roger Espinoza (Johnny Russell, Felipe Gutierrez) 27
SKC – Diego Rubio (Cristian Lobato) 52
POR – Samuel Armenteros (unassisted) 54
POR – Samuel Armenteros (unassisted) 59
POR – Cristhian Paredes (unassisted) 76
Sporting KC 2018 Preseason Results
|Saturday, Jan. 27||Phoenix Rising FC trialists||W 2-1||Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex
|Wednesday, Jan. 31||Sporting Arizona||W 4-0||Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex
|Saturday, Feb. 3||Colorado Rapids||W 2-0||Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex
|Wednesday, Feb. 14||New York Red Bulls||T 1-1||Kino Sports Complex
|Saturday, Feb. 17||Phoenix Rising FC||W 2-1||Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex
|Wednesday, Feb. 21||New England Revolution||L 1-2||Kino Sports Complex
|Saturday, Feb. 24||Portland Timbers||L 2-3||Kino Sports Complex