Diego Rubio struck twice and Johnny Russell added a late third as Sporting Kansas City posted their third straight shutout victory in a dominant 3-0 defeat of the Portland Timbers on Saturday night at Children’s Mercy Park.
Rubio spearheaded the comprehensive performance with goals in the 28th and 37th minutes before Russell came off the bench to bag his team-leading eighth MLS goal in the 89th minute. The result lifts Sporting KC (12-6-6, 42 points) into a provisional tie for first place in the Western Conference with FC Dallas and gives Manager Peter Vermes’ men three consecutive shutout wins in MLS for the first time since April 2013.
The fifth-place Timbers (10-6-7, 37 points) were kept off the scoresheet for the eighth time in their last 10 MLS meetings with Sporting KC, suffering a third straight defeat in the process. Sporting KC goalkeeper Tim Melia now leads MLS with 10 clean sheets season, equaling his career-high from 2017.
Fielding an unchanged lineup from last weekend’s 2-0 win at LAFC, Sporting KC wasted no time asserting their dominance against a Timbers side just three days removed from a 4-1 road loss to D.C. United. Gerso Fernandes was the first to test busy Portland goalkeeper Jeff Attinella in the fifth minute, cutting centrally onto his left foot only to see his left-footed curler palmed wide.
In Portland’s lone foray forward during a one-sided first half, striker Samuel Armenteros nearly fired the visitors ahead with a bending effort from the top of the box that caromed off Tim Melia’s right-hand post in the 13th minute. It would be the Timbers’ only shot attempt during the first stanza, as Sporting KC responded with an offensive siege at the opposite end.
The lively Fernandes went close twice in the space of four minutes on chances created by Roger Espinoza and Daniel Salloi, respectively, while Rubio forced Attinella into another save in the 20th minute. Graham Zusi, celebrating his 32nd birthday, almost buried a free kick three minutes later, but the diving Attinella was equal to it.
Sporting KC finally broke through near the half-hour mark when Espinoza played Rubio into a pocket of space just outside the box. The Chilean took full advantage with a low piledriver that nestled into the left corner, marking the fifth straight game in which Rubio has scored or assisted. Espinoza, making his 200th MLS start for the club, tallied his team-best ninth assist on the play.
Salloi set up Rubio’s second goal nine minutes later, squaring low from the left side of the box. Rubio took a touch and found the right corner from near the penalty spot, recording his second career MLS brace and taking his MLS goal total to six on the season.
One-way traffic continued for most of the second period, although Portland could have grabbed a goal back in the 67th minute when Diego Valeri’s looping cross was headed marginally wide by Andres Flores. Ten minutes earlier, a flowing attack involving Rubio, Espinoza and Salloi culminated with Gutierrez firing high from 20 yards.
Russell entered for Salloi in the 69th minute and almost scored within seconds of his introduction, but his chip shot off a feed from Espinoza floated inches wide and into the side netting. Two minutes later, Espinoza’s low roller from the top of the box beat Attinella but clipped the wrong side of the post.
Krisztian Nemeth made his long-awaited Children’s Mercy Park return as a 73rd-minute substitute and as on the receiving end of two chances manufactured by Russell and Espinoza, but was unable to put either effort on target. The Hungarian was active and involved nevertheless, and would play an instrumental role in Sporting KC’s final goal of the game.
With a minute left in regulation, Russell played a brilliant give-and-go with Nemeth before slotting past Attinella for his 10th goal of the year in all competitions. Nemeth, meanwhile, notched his first assist in a Sporting KC uniform since August 2015, having rejoined the club earlier this month in a trade with the New England Revolution.
Sporting KC will play for their fourth successive win next Saturday at Children’s Mercy Park, hosting regional rivals Minnesota United FC at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets for the match are available via SeatGeek.com as the club hosts its second annual Sporting Salutes, an immersive military appreciation night honoring past and present service members of the United States Armed Forces.
2018 MLS Regular Season
Game 24 of 34
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Weather: 82 degrees and sunny
|Sporting Kansas City (12-6-6, 42 points)||2||1||3|
|Portland Timbers (10-6-7, 37 points)||0||0||0|
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi, Ike Opara, Matt Besler (C), Seth Sinovic; Roger Espinoza, Ilie Sanchez, Felipe Gutierrez (Yohan Croizet 81); Gerso Fernandes, Diego Rubio (Krisztian Nemeth 73), Daniel Salloi (Johnny Russell 69)
Subs Not Used: Adrian Zendejas, Amer Didic, Jaylin Lindsey, Gianluca Busio
Portland Timbers: Jeff Attinella; Larrys Mabiala (Bill Tuiloma 45), Lawrence Olum, Julio Cascante; Marco Farfan, David Guzman, Andres Flores, Cristhian Paredes (Sebastian Blanco 57), Zarek Valentin; Diego Valeri (C) (Tomas Conechny 81), Samuel Armenteros
Subs Not Used: Steve Clark, Alvas Powell, Diego Chara, Dairon Asprilla
SKC -- Diego Rubio 5 (Roger Espinoza 9) 28
SKC -- Diego Rubio 6 (Daniel Salloi 7, Matt Besler 2) 37
SKC -- Johnny Russell 8 (Krisztian Nemeth 3) 89
POR -- Julio Cascante (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 51
POR -- Zarek Valentin (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 60
|Shots on Goal||10||1|
Referee: Allen Chapman
Assistant Referee: Michael Kampmeinert
Assistant Referee: Peter Balciunas
Fourth Official: Marcos de Oliveira
VAR: Kevin Stott