Competition: Major League Soccer – Sporting Kansas City vs. Portland Timbers
Venue: Sporting Park – Saturday, July 1 – 19:00 ET (00:00 BST)
Match Odds: SKC 4/6 – Draw 11/4 – Portland 15/4
Sporting Kansas City welcome Portland Timbers to Sporting Park in one of the standout games this weekend, with both sides battling at the top of the Western Conference.
SKC are sitting top of the pile in the West, but are trailing by five points in the race for the Supporters’ Shield. They come into this one having progressed into the Quarter Finals of the US Open Cup in midweek, so spirits are high in the camp.
The major concern for Peter Vermes’ side is that they have lost key players in Matt Besler, Graham Zusi and Dom Dwyer, who are all away with the US Men’s National Side in preparation for the Gold Cup. Squad depth will be tested but SKC have already proven this season that they can cope without their heavy hitters.
Their last MLS outing was a 2-1 away win against LA Galaxy. Peter Vermes will be delighted with how his side are performing, with that win extending their unbeaten run to four games. They will be feeling confident of picking up three points here considering they’re unbeaten in their last 17 home games.
Portland Timbers come into this one five points behind SKC, but they are well in the mix in the battle at the top of the West. Earning a place in the top six is proving to be a tight battle once again, with just eight points separating 1st and 6th place, so the visitors know they cannot afford to lose ground with a poor performance.
The Timbers drew 2-2 at home against Cascadia rivals Seattle last time out. It was a bitterly disappointing result, as they saw three points dramatically taken away from them in the last knockings of the game as Dempsey came up with a stoppage time header for 10-man Seattle.
Portland are going to have to break an unfavourable trend that seems to be occurring in their games against SKC if they are to win this weekend. They have been shut out in six of the last eight meetings in all competitions, but they certainly have the firepower up top to unlock the best defence in MLS.
Sporting Kansas City will need to try and get the job done without three of their star players as Matt Besler, Graham Zusi and Dom Dwyer are all away with the USMNT in preparation for the Gold Cup. They do have a relatively clean bill of health for this fixture though, with only Erik Palmer-Brown and Benny Feilhaber likely to miss out with injuries.
Portland Timbers could be four for the trip to SKC as, Gbenga Arokoyo, Jack Barmby and Liam Ridgewell are all expected to remain out, while Chance Myers is a doubt to face his former club as he still waits to make his first Timbers appearance.
Sporting Kansas City’s form: L/W/D/D/W
Portland Timbers’ form: W/W/L/L/D
Key Stat: Portland have been struggling on the road, losing 13 of their last 16. That form makes for bleak reading for Portland fans as they know how tough SKC are to beat at home.
Key Player: Diego Valeri – The Portland playmaker has four assists to his name so far this season and has found the back of the net nine times. He will be key to his side picking up a positive result this weekend considering he has been directly involved in 13 of the Timbers’ 31 goals in 2017.Embed from Getty Images
Sporting Kansas City 2-2 Portland Timbers – Given the form of Sporting Kansas City ahead of this tie it is difficult to see them losing, even with their international absentees. Portland Timbers are going to have to work hard to take a positive result as SKC have conceded just 12 goals so far this season. An entertaining score draw could be on the cards, especially if either side is able to find an early goal.