Portland Timbers vs. Sporting Kansas City
2017 MLS Regular season
Providence Park - Portland, Ore.
Saturday, April 15 - 10:30 pm ET
WATCH: MLS LIVE
It's strength vs. strength when the Western Conference-leading Portland Timbers host unbeaten Sporting Kansas City on Saturday at Providence Park, with each club facing arguably its toughest challenge yet in the young season.
The Timbers are racking up the goals in bunches this season, with striker Fanendo Adi (now the club's leading career scorer) and playmaker Diego Valeri already on five tallies each through six matches. Conversely, Sporting have only conceded twice through five outings -- neither of those goals coming until second-half stoppage time in matches that were already decided -- giving goalkeeper Tim Melia three clean sheets and a league-best 0.4 goals-against average.
Both sides are coming off solid 3-1 wins last weekend, albeit against struggling sides: Portland dispatched the winless Philadelphia Union in Chester, Pa. as Adi recorded his 46th goal in a Timbers kit, and Sporting saw striker Dom Dwyer find the net for the first time this year in dispatching the Colorado Rapids at Children's Mercy Park.
(Both of those matches saw unlikely scores from veteran defenders, as well, with Portland's Roy Miller recording his first MLS goal and SKC's Seth Sinovic scoring for the first time in regular-season play and just the fourth time across all competitions since breaking into the league in 2010.)
Irresistible vs. immovable -- which one will come out on top?
With half of Portland's goals this year coming against cellar dwellers -- five against Minnesota United in the season opener and three against the Union last weekend -- it might be tempting to speculate that the Timbers have padded their stats against sub-par opposition.
But they also hung four on Houston -- the West's surprise turnaround team -- on March 18, and scored twice against East-leading Columbus Crew SC in their only loss, a 3-2 setback on March 25.
Still, after giving up a goal a game on average, and with Sporting beginning to find their offensive stroke after scoring just twice in their first four matches, defense could be a concern for the Timbers.
- Suspended: None
- Int’l Duty: None
- Injury Report: OUT - DF Gbenga Arokoyo (Achilles tear); QUESTIONABLE - DF Liam Ridgewell (foot injury)
Projected starting XI (4-2-3-1, right to left): Jake Gleeson – Alvas Powell, Lawrence Olum, Roy Miller, Marco Farfan – David Guzman, Diego Chara – Sebastian Blanco, Diego Valeri, Darlington Nagbe – Fanendo Adi
Note: Portland have 15 wins in their last 21 games at home and enters this weekend on an eight-game unbeaten run (7W-1D). Portland have scored in each of their last 21 home games (average 2.3 goals per home game over this span).
Sporting Kansas City
Veteran playmaker Benny Feilhaber is still working his way back from hamstring tightness that has kept him out of Sporting's last two matches, but has been training this week and could be available -- off the bench, if not starting -- for Saturday's match.
"We'll just kind of evaluate as the week goes on," manager Peter Vermes told MLSsoccer.com before Wednesday's training session. "If all goes well through the week, he should be available for the 18, that's what I would say at this point."
Fullback-turned-winger Jimmy Medranda, who has started in Feilhaber's midfield spot in each of the past two games, had his own scary moment in Sunday's match when he collided with the Rapids' Jared Watts and sustained a cut near his left eye. Medranda returned to the pitch after being treated, though, and Vermes characterized the knock as nothing serious after the match.
- Suspended: None
- Int’l Duty: None
- Injury Report: OUT: F - Diego Rubio (ACL), QUESTIONABLE: M - Benny Feilhaber (thigh strain, day-to-day)
Projected Starting XI (4-4-3): Tim Melia (GK) – Seth Sinovic, Matt Besler, Ike Opara, Graham Zusi – Roger Espinoza, Jimmy Medranda, Ilie Sanchez – Gerso Fernandes, Dom Dwyer, Soony Saad
Note: Sporting Kansas City’s last three road games in the regular season have ended in scoreless draws, the longest such streak in franchise history.
The two sides have met 10 times, with Sporting holding a 5-3 edge in victories. There have been two draws.
- Overall: Portland 3 victories, 9 goals; Sporting 5 victories, 10 goals; 2 draws
- In Portland: Portland 2 victories, 5 goals; Sporting 3 victories, 4 goals; 1 draw
- Referee: Drew Fischer
- Senior Assistant Referee (Near Side): Frank Anderson
- Junior Assistant Referee (Far Side): Daniel Belleau
- Fourth Official: Ricardo Salazar