KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Graham Zusi scored a first-half brace and Soony Saad added insult to injury in the second half as Sporting Kansas City cruised to a 3-1 victory against the Portland Timbers on Wednesday night.
Sporting outshot the Timbers 15-7 on the night and never truly looked threatened by the visitors after jumping out to a 3-0 lead in front of 15,271 fans at Livestrong Sporting Park. Bright Dike pulled a goal back late in the second half for Portland.
From the very start, Sporting took the reins at home, holding possession in the Timbers’ half and limiting the visitors to occasional forays forward on the counterattack.
Zusi got the home side on the board with a spectacular hit in the 25th minute. Milos Stojcev started the move with a pinpoint diagonal ball to Chance Myers on the back post, which the defender attempted to nod back across the penalty area. The Timbers were able to clear the ball out of the penalty area but it only got as far as Zusi, who teed the ball up from 25 yards and unleashed a spectacular drive to the top corner to put Sporting up 1-0.
The game took an unfortunate turn during the celebration, however, as SKC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen was hit below the eye with an Omar Bravo bobblehead — given away to fans at LSP on Wednesday night — thrown from the stands, causing play to be stopped for five minutes as trainers tended to the Dane.
With Nielsen continuing play after receiving stitches, Kansas City picked up where they left off when play resumed. Once again, it was Zusi who put the ball in the back of the net to record his fifth goal of the season. In the 40th minute, C.J. Sapong flicked Matt Besler’s long throw-in, but Portland 'keeper Troy Perkins saved Teal Bunbury’s first-time shot at the back post. Unfortunately for the Timbers, the ball fell kindly to Zusi, and he tucked it away from short range to give Sporting a 2-0 advantage.
Looking for spark at halftime, Timbers manager John Spencer sent Kalif Alhassan on for Sal Zizzo, but that didn’t stop Sporting from heaping the pressure on.
The home side tacked on a third goal in strange fashion in the 72nd minute from MLS debutant Saad, who was subbed on just nine minutes earlier. Seth Sinovic attempted to play Saad into the area, but his pass was long. Central defender Eric Brunner attempted to clear the ball as Saad applied pressure, but his clearance struck the rookie perfectly and morphed into an inch-perfect chip over the scrambling Perkins.
Down 3-0, the Timbers pulled one back in the 81st minute through substitute Dike. Rodney Wallace drove a low ball across the penalty box, and Kansas City allowed it to run on to Dike, who beat Nielsen with a shot to the far post.
With the victory, Sporting Kansas City improved to 8-7-9, moving their record at home to 5-1-4 and giving them all six points from two meeting with Portland this season.
More importantly, they leapfrogged both New York and Houston in the Eastern Conference standings and temporarily stand alone in third place with 33 points. They next host D.C. United on Sunday.
The Timbers, meanwhile dropped to 7-12-5 ahead of Saturday’s home match with fellow expansion side and Cascadia rivals Vancouver.
KC -- Graham Zusi 4 (unassisted) 25
KC -- Graham Zusi 5 (unassisted) 40
KC -- Soony Saad 1 (unassisted) 72
POR -- Bright Dike 1 (Rodney Wallace 1, Jack Jewsbury 7) 81
POR -- Mike Chabala (caution; Tactical Foul) 18
KC -- Seth Sinovic (caution; Reckless Foul) 43
Portland Timbers -- Troy Perkins, Mike Chabala, Eric Brunner, David Horst, Rodney Wallace, Sal Zizzo (Kalif Alhassan 46), Jack Jewsbury, Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe (Brian Umony 60), Kenny Cooper (Bright Dike 66), Jorge Perlaza.
Substitutes Not Used: Mamadou Danso, Jeremy Hall, James Marcelin, Adin Brown.
Sporting KC -- Jimmy Nielsen, Chance Myers, Matt Besler, Julio Cesar, Seth Sinovic (Michael Harrington 75), Kei Kamara, Graham Zusi, Milos Stojcev (Soony Saad 63), Roger Espinoza, C.J. Sapong, Teal Bunbury (Korede Aiyegbusi 89).
Substitutes Not Used: Birahim Diop, Kevin Ellis, Shavar Thomas, Eric Kronberg.
Referee: Elias Bazakos
Referee's Assistants: Eric Boria; Corey Parker
4th Official: Abbey Okulaja
Time of Game: 1:54
Weather: Sunny and 86 degrees