Beyond The Box Score: Timbers tamed on home turf against stingy Sporting KC

A large and zealous Portland Timbers fanbase has been treated to plenty of success during the club's eight-year stint in Major League Soccer. Spearheaded by an amorous and impassioned Timbers Army supporters group, Portland has leveraged one of the league's best home atmospheres into a 2015 MLS Cup and three playoff appearances.

Historic Providence Park has been hailed a fortress in MLS circles, and fairly so. Since 2014, the Timbers have won nearly 70 percent of their regular season matches at the venue and suffered just 11 defeats in 74 games.

But — and yes, there's a big "but" in the room — one bogie team has proven to be a proverbial thorn in Portland's side during their visits to Providence Park. And that team, without any shred of a doubt, is Sporting KC.

Saturday's scoreless draw between Portland and Sporting KC continued a remarkable trend in which Manager Peter Vermes' men have successfully stifled the Timbers on their home turf. The tables below tell you everything you need to know, but to summarize:

  • Sporting KC have earned shutouts in five of their last six regular season visits to Providence Park.
  • Since September 2015, Portland has failed to score in five regular season home games. Four of those have come against Sporting KC, including each of the last three.
  • Since the start of 2014, Portland has averaged more than two goals per regular season home against opponents not named Sporting KC. That number falls to 0.5 goals per game against Vermes' side.

SPORTING KC'S LAST SIX VISITS TO PORTLAND TIMBERS
(MLS REGULAR SEASON)

Date Result Details
06/27/2014 W 1-0 Lawrence Olum bags game-winner in first half
09/09/2015 T 0-0 Tim Melia sets then career-high with seven saves
10/03/2015 W 1-0 Melia saves six as Krisztian Nemeth nets Goal of the Year winner
08/07/2016 L 0-3 Diego Valeri, Jack Jewsbury and Fanendi Adi score in 2nd half
04/15/2017 W 1-0 Jimmy Medranda assists Dom Dwyer header
06/06/2018 T 0-0 Melia makes four saves

If any one player has been most responsible for Portland's home struggles against Sporting KC, it's probably goalkeeper Tim Melia. The 32-year-old veteran has yet to allow a goal in 360 minutes of regular season action at Providence Park, totaling 20 saves across those four games.

The only match in the table above that saw goals from the home side was a 3-0 Timbers victory in August 2016. Sporting KC's Alec Kann stood between the posts in that game, conceding three second-half strikes after both sides had a player sent off before halftime.

Transitioning to the table immediately below, Sporting KC has made a habit of snapping Portland's home scoring streaks. In last season's 1-0 road win, the club ended Portland's run of 21 home games with at least one goal. On Saturday night, Sporting KC ousted a similar run of 18 games.

LAST FIVE TIMES PORTLAND HAS FAILED TO SCORE AT HOME
(MLS REGULAR SEASON)

Date Opponent Result Home scoring streak ended
09/09/2015 Sporting KC T 0-0 8 games
09/20/2015 New York Red Bulls L 0-2 0 games
10/03/2015 Sporting KC L 0-1 0 games
04/15/2017 Sporting KC L 0-1 21 games
06/09/2018 Sporting KC T 0-0 18 games

PORTLAND AT HOME: SPORTING KC vs. REST OF MLS
(MLS REGULAR SEASON SINCE 2014)

Stat vs. Sporting KC vs. Rest of MLS
Record 1-3-2 39-8-21
Win % 33.3% 72.8%
Goals per game 0.50 2.01
Failed to score 5 times 5 times

And while Melia was unquestionably solid on Saturday — he made four saves en route to his seventh shutout in 11 games — a stout performance from Sporting KC's back four was instrumental in extending the club's unbeaten run to seven games in all competitions.

With that said, let's begin with Sporting KC's record-breaking captain. Center back Matt Besler was forced to exit at halftime with a thigh ailment, but not before becoming the all-time leader with his 241st regular season appearance for the club.

MOST APPEARANCES FOR SPORTING KC
(ALL-TIME, MLS REGULAR SEASON)

# Player Games Seasons
1 Matt Besler 241 2009-present
2 Davy Arnaud 240  
3 Kerry Zavagnin 237 2000-2008
4 Graham Zusi 233 2009-present
5 Nick Garcia 224 2000-2007
6 Preki 218 1996-2000 & 2002-2005
7 Roger Espinoza 205 2008-2012 & 2015-present
8 Jimmy Conrad 204 2003-2010
9 Chris Klein 200 1998-2005
10 Jack Jewsbury 195 2003-2010

Besler's accomplishment is a stark contrast to the milestones achieved by 18-year-old fullback Jaylin Lindsey and 19-year-old midfielder Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal. The Sporting KC Academy products became the second and sixth-youngest Sporting KC players to start a regular season match, respectively.

SPORTING KC'S YOUNGEST STARTERS
(ALL-TIME, MLS REGULAR SEASON)

# Player Age Date Result
1 Erik Palmer-Brown 17 years, 24 days 05/18/2014 L 1-2 at Chicago Fire
2 Jaylin Lindsey 18 years, 74 days 06/09/2018 T 0-0 at Portland Timbers
3 Yura Movsisyan 18 years, 357 days 06/28/2006 L 2-3 vs. D.C. United
4 Jose Burciaga Jr. 19 years, 184 days 05/19/2001 L 0-2 at Chicago Fire
5 Igor Juliao 19 years, 264 days 05/14/2018 L 1-2 vs. Philadelphia Union
6 Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal 19 years, 268 days 06/09/2018 T 0-0 at Portland Timbers
7 Soony Saad 19 years, 308 days 06/20/2012 T 1-1 at Seattle Sounders FC

With a two-game road trip in the rearview mirror, Sporting KC will return to Children’s Mercy Park next Saturday to continue their defense of the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The reigning champions are set to face FC Dallas in the Round of 16 at 8 p.m. CT in a rematch of last season’s epic Open Cup quarterfinal that saw Sporting KC endure most of regulation down a man before scoring three extra-time goals en route to an emotional 3-0 home victory. Tickets for the matchup are included in Sporting KC Season Ticket Member packages and available via SeatGeek.com.

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