Preview: Sporting to host Portland Timbers in home finale on Sunday

Sporting Kansas City vs. Portland Timbers
Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019 | 6:30 p.m. CT
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
2019 MLS Regular Season | Match 33 of 34

Broadcast Schedule:
English TV | FOX Sports Kansas City
English TV | FOX Sports Midwest
English Radio | ESPN 94.5 FM
Spanish Radio | La Grande 1340 AM
Mobile | Sporting KC App, FOX Sports GO

Sporting KC App | FOX Sports GO Stream
Match Notes | Media Guide | MatchCenter


World-class Children’s Mercy Park will host its last match of the 2019 MLS season on Sunday when Sporting Kansas City (10-15-7, 37 points) welcomes the Portland Timbers (13-13-6, 45 points) in a Western Conference clash at 6:30 p.m. CT.

Tickets for Sporting’s home finale remain available at or by calling 888-4KC-GOAL to secure a Family 4 Pack, consisting of four tickets, four Coca-Cola products, four bags of chips and four hamburgers, hot dogs or chicken tender baskets. The first 5,000 fans through the stadium gates will also receive a free headband courtesy of match sponsor PNC Bank.

FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest and FOX Sports GO will carry three hours of live coverage beginning at 6 p.m. CT, while listeners can catch the action live on ESPN 94.5 FM (English) and La Grande 1340 AM (Spanish). Viewers beyond the FOX Sports Midwest footprint can access ESPN Plus to stream the contest, one of six Western Conference battles set to kick off concurrently on the penultimate matchday of the regular season.

Supporters attending Sunday's match will have the opportunity to score and save with the Sporting KC App, available for free download on the App Store and Google Play. On the merchandise side, fans who place SportingStyle mobile orders of $50 or more will receive a free shuttlecock Sporting KC scarf. On the concessions side, fans over 21 will receive a 25-oz. Bud Light with any mobile order purchase of $20 or more.

Wednesday’s bitter 2-1 road loss to Minnesota United FC eliminated Sporting Kansas City from playoff contention, ending a club-record eight-year postseason run that began in 2011 when the team moved into Children’s Mercy Park. Center back Botond Barath opened his MLS scoring account on a Johnny Russell assist in the seventh minute, but the Loons responded with a pair of late goals from Osvaldo Alonso and Hassani Dotson to secure their first-ever postseason berth and condemn Sporting to their fourth successive defeat.

Sporting’s eight-year playoff run under Manager Peter Vermes ranks as the fourth-longest postseason streak in MLS history and the longest of any major professional sports team in Kansas City. With their final home match on the docket, Vermes’ men will now embrace the spoiler role against a Portland outfit that sits just one point above the playoff line in the ultra-competitive West.

Led by second-year head coach Giovanni Savarese, the Timbers have played each of their last 10 MLS matches in the friendly confines of Providence Park—a product of spending the first three months of the season on the road while stadium renovations took place in Portland. Savarese’s side was unable to fully cash in, going 4-4-2 during the marathon homestand and claiming just two points from their previous four fixtures.

A few hours after Sporting surrendered a late lead in Minnesota on Wednesday evening, Portland followed suit against the New England Revolution. A second-half brace from Jeremy Ebobisse had given the hosts a 2-0 advantage, but the Revs pulled one back on 87 minutes through Gustavo Bou before Carles Gil leveled terms with a 97th-minute penalty kick.

Portland can clinch a playoff berth on Sunday with a win over Sporting and a loss from either FC Dallas or the San Jose Earthquakes. The Timbers will therefore hope they can replicate the success of their most recent trip to Children’s Mercy Park—a pulsating 3-2 triumph in the decisive second leg of the 2018 Western Conference Championship that vaulted the club into MLS Cup against eventual champion Atlanta United FC. Influential midfield playmakers Diego Valeri and Sebastian Blanco both scored for Portland in the November thriller, while Sporting struck through forwards Gerso Fernandes and Daniel Salloi.

Despite the relative struggles of both teams in recent weeks, Sporting and Portland boast multiple players who have enjoyed standout campaigns. Russell (nine goals, eight assists) and Chilean international Felipe Gutierrez (12 goals, three assists) have led the way for Sporting, with the latter becoming the fourth midfielder in club history to hit double-digit goals in a single regular season. Russell, meanwhile, is one goal shy of becoming the fourth Kansas City player to bag 10 goals in consecutive regular seasons.

On the Timbers sideline, Valeri remains one of the league’s greatest talents. He leads MLS in chances created and ranks second with 16 assists, while Blanco (four goals, 11 assists) and joint-leading scorers Ebobisse and Brian Fernandez (11 goals) have provided a decisive punch up top.

Sporting are 5-2-4 with a remarkable eight shutouts in their last 11 regular season meetings against Portland since 2014. The sides most recently met on Sept. 7 in Portland as the Timbers staged a late comeback to prevail 2-1. Benny Feilhaber fired Sporting ahead with an AT&T MLS Goal of the Week winner before the hosts responded with strikes from Ebobisse and Fernandez to notch a dramatic victory.

Sporting captain Matt Besler will be available for selection Sunday after missing Wednesday’s game against Minnesota on a red card suspension. On the injury front, the hosts are likely to be without the services of Feilhaber (quad), defender Andreu Fontas (Achilles) and backup goalkeeper Adrian Zendejas (back).