Sporting Kansas City battled to a 0-0 draw with the Portland Timbers in the First Leg of the Western Conference Championship in the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs at Providence Park in Portland on Sunday night. Sporting KC now heads home for the Second Leg this coming Thursday at Children’s Mercy Park, with kickoff set for 8:30 p.m. CT and tickets available via SeatGeek.com.
Sporting KC knows any win on Thursday will see the side advance to its first MLS Cup since winning the championship at Children’s Mercy Park in 2013. A score-draw or a Portland win would see the Timbers advance. A scoreless draw would see the two sides head to extra time and potentially penalty kicks if the score is still tied after 120 minutes.
The Timbers were the first to threaten on Sunday through left back Jorge Villafana, whose sweetly struck half-volley from the edge of the area slammed against the inside of the post before spinning harmlessly away from goal in the sixth minute.
A tense first half ensued until the first minute of added time, when a Portland free kick from the right hand side was met by Dairon Asprilla, but his header was comfortably gathered by Tim Melia. Moments later, Liam Ridgewell floated another header toward goal but Melia once again was up to the task, punching the ball away as the two sides headed into the halftime interval.
Sporting KC almost enjoyed a perfect start to the second half as Khiry Shelton’s cutback found Johnny Russell, but the Scottish international blazed his effort over the bar when well placed just inside inside the Timbers area. Ten minutes later, Seth Sinovic settled a ball 20 yards out and struck a dipping volley that Portland goalkeeper Jeff Attinella did well to catch.
Portland thought they’d taken the lead in the 70th minute when David Guzman bundled the ball home after Ridgewell’s header had come off the post, but Ridgewell was flagged offside after the play was completed – a call confirmed by the Video Assistant Referee.
Russell once again went close for Sporting KC in the 80th minute when he cut inside from the right wing and whipped a left-footed effort that zipped narrowly over the crossbar. Two minutes later, Portland substitute Bill Tuiloma headed Valeri’s corner on frame, but Melia performed heroics yet again as he sprung to his right to hold the goal-bound attempt.
Sporting KC almost snatched a crucial away goal in the 84th minute when Russell beat two players on the right and slid a ball back across the six-yard-box, but Shelton was unable to make clean contact with the ball and it trickled out of play. As the clock ticked into stoppage time, Salloi latched onto Gutierrez’s knockdown in the area, but his shot from 10 yards out was blocked brilliantly by the Portland backline as the game ended scoreless.
Sporting KC will now head home on Monday for training sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday prior to the Second Leg of the Western Conference Championship against the Timbers on Thursday night. Sporting KC has posted a 20-3-11 record at Children’s Mercy Park since the start of the 2017 campaign, and knows a win will see the side face either Atlanta United FC or the New York Red Bulls on the road in the 2018 MLS Cup. Tickets for Thursday’s Second Leg at Children’s Mercy Park are on sale via SeatGeek.com, with the game kicking off at 8:30 p.m. CT on ESPN.
Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs
Western Conference Championship (Leg 1 of 2)
Providence Park | Portland, Oregon
Weather: 45 degrees and cloudy
|Sporting KC (1-0-2, No. 1 seed)||0||0||0|
|Portland Timbers (2-1-1, No. 5 seed)||0||0||0|
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi, Ike Opara, Matt Besler (C), Seth Sinovic; Ilie Sanchez, Roger Espinoza, Felipe Gutierrez; Johnny Russell (Yohan Croizet 92+), Khiry Shelton, Daniel Salloi
Subs Not Used: Adrian Zendejas, Andreu Fontas, Brad Evans, Gianluca Busio, Gerso Fernandes, Krisztian Nemeth
Portland Timbers: Jeff Attinella; Zarek Valentin, Larrys Mabiala (Bill Tuiloma 18’), Liam Ridgewell, Jorge Villafana; Diego Chara, David Guzman, Dairon Asprilla, Diego Valeri (C), Sebastian Blanco; Jeremy Ebobisse (Lucas Melano 81’)
Subs Not Used: Steve Clark, Alvas Powell, Tomas Conechny, Andres Flores, Lawrence Olum
POR – David Guzman (Yellow Card; Unsporting Behavior) 36’
SKC – Seth Sinovic (Yellow Card; Unsporting Behavior) 46+
SKC – Matt Besler (Yellow Card; Unsporting Behavior) 66’
SKC – Daniel Salloi (Yellow Card; Unsporting Behavior) 89’
|Shots on Goal||1||6|
Referee: Roberto Sibiga
Assistant Referee: CJ Morgante
Assistant Referee: Corey Rockwell
Fourth Official: Ted Unkel
VAR: Edvin Jurisevic