KANSAS CITY, Kan. – No team in the middle of the fight for the final Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs spots in the Western Conference has made it easy on themselves. That includes the Portland Timbers, who again didn’t make it easy on themselves, as they had to fight from behind to get a point in a 2-2 draw against Sporting Kansas City at Children's Mercy Park on Sunday.
The point will come with a bit of a cost though, as star striker Brian Fernandez was sent off for violent conduct and will be suspended next Sunday on Decision Day presented by AT&T. Sporting's Roger Espinoza was sent off as well for his role in the first-half fracas between the teams, but according to Portland head coach Giovanni Savarese, neither player should have been sent off.
“To be quite honest, I don’t think anybody should [have been] thrown out, from what I saw,” said Savarese. “From what I saw it got heated, but no, I think a lot of yellow card situations there. So I have to be honest that I haven’t seen it yet, I just heard that it wasn’t as much as they made it seem like.”
Savarese is planning on appealing Fernandez's suspension for Decision Day.
“Definitely. We will appeal, and I feel pretty confident from what I heard that it should be turned around, because from what I heard, he didn’t do much," he said.
With both teams down to ten men, Sporting KC jumped out to a 2-1 lead on the stroke of halftime. When they went down, Savarese’s message to the team was to not get frustrated. And they eventually were rewarded. The Timbers were awarded a “deserved PK” according to Savarese, and Dairon Asprilla smashed it home, his first goal in MLS this season, to give the Timbers a well-earned point.
The Timbers were without Diego Valeri for their battle in Kansas City, who according to Savarese had tightness in his calf. With how the match turned out, Savarese didn’t feel like it was worth the risk, even with the playoff prospects on the line.
“Especially the way the game was,” Savarese said, “I think it was too much up and down [the field], it would’ve been too difficult for him with the calf tightness that he had.”
But it all comes down to one match, at home, against the Timbers' direct playoff spot rival to get in to the playoffs. While they would’ve liked to have finished it off beforehand, the Timbers would have it no other way.
“We would not want any other place than Providence Park to play that game,” said Timbers defender Zarek Valentin. “The fans are already talking about it, bringing their energy and I can already feel it. It’s just a matter of going out there and getting points. I don’t care how it happens. I don’t care if the ball goes in off someone’s face or groin, I really couldn’t care less. We just need to make sure we put the ball in the net and get points out of that game.”