PORTLAND, Ore. -- Score one more for the defense, perhaps the biggest tally of the season so far for Sporting Kansas City.
Saturday night's 1-0 victory over the Portland Timbers marked the first time all season that any team has managed to keep the league's highest-scoring offense off the board. More importantly, it lifted Sporting into second place in the Western Conference, still unbeaten on the season after their third clean sheet in as many away matches.
The idea wasn't just to come in and focus on stopping Portland, though, manager Peter Vermes said after Sporting broke a five-match winless streak on the road.
“I never really think of it that way," Vermes told reporters after the match. "I understand the question. I get it. I look at it like this: I said this all week long, [Portland] is the best team going forward in the league right now. They execute. We know that they’re coming in arguably the best team in the league. So for us to come in here, it was going to be a massive game and we walk away with a massive three points.
"But make no mistake about it, we came to play. We didn’t just sit back or whatever. We also managed the moments of the game and when I talk about that, I mean the time, the score of the game, all those types of things. I think we did a really good job.”
Sporting's high press kept Portland -- who had scored five goals in the first quarter-hour of matches this season -- without a shot until the 33rd minute, and with no shots on goal at all in a scoreless first half. And when the Timbers did trouble Kansas City 'keeper Tim Melia, he was equal to the task.
In the 79th minute, Darlington Nagbe’s potential equalizer from well outside of the box was only narrowly diverted by Melia’s outstretched fingertips. In a game of inches, Melia’s fingertip save was the difference between splitting the points and taking all three.
“When I saw Nagbe lining up, I didn’t know if Tim was too far off his line,” Vermes said. “I wasn’t sure because sometimes you're not expecting a shot from that distance. Tim is a very powerful guy. The fact that he was able to get up and get enough tips to hit it off the crossbar talks a lot about his concentration.”
That save, and two more from Melia -- who leads MLS with four clean sheets and a 0.33 goals-against average -- allowed Dom Dwyer's 53rd-minute header to stand as the winner. It was Dwyer's second score in as many matches, after not tallying in the first four games of the season.
“It was a fantastic ball from Jimmy Medranda," Dwyer said. "He just managed to get himself on the end of it and whipped it across and I just redirected it into the corner.”