PORTLAND, ORE. -- In the final game of a three-match, seven-day stretch, Sporting Kansas City left Providence Park on Saturday night having accomplished the admirable feat of holding the Portland Timbers scoreless at home for the first time this season, despite seizing upon a scattering of chances to snatch a victory in what instead finished a 0-0 draw.
“I think it was probably a fair result for both teams,” Sporting coach Peter Vermes said afterward. “I thought we played at times really well being the fact that we were in their place and taking the game to them a little bit. But they’re also a very explosive team.
"The other place I thought we were fantastic was, I thought our balance and discipline when we went forward, not to expose ourselves and be able to deal with [Fanendo] Adi, [Sebastián] Blanco, and [Diego] Valeri, and the way that they kind of start to find those cheating little spaces around the area ... . We did a really good job of that throughout the whole entire game.”
Outside back Graham Zusi echoed his coach’s sentiments.
“I thought we played a solid game,” Zusi said. "We were very, very sound defensively. We were trying to be opportunistic going forward. Got a few chances. I think we were a little unlucky not to grab a goal. For the most part I think it’s a pretty fair result. I thought the guys came in and put a fantastic 90-minute performance in. To be completely honest, I think we controlled the tempo of the game and had the better of the play.”
Despite Portland's tactical fluidity under first-year coach Giovanni Savarese, Zusi explained that the visitors had seen some tendencies in their pregame scouting and film work.
“They tend to, for lack of a better word, cheat a little bit and really take off as soon as they win the ball," Zusi said. "I thought we dealt with it well.”
Kansas City’s defense limited a Timbers side that was 6-0-1 in its previous seven matches to only a handful of opportunities.
Sporting goalkeeper Tim Melia made four saves, but was rarely seriously tested in preserving his seventh clean sheet of the season and extending KC's own unbeaten stretch to six games.
“The biggest thing was just being organized here,” Melia said. “Portland has had a really good run of success right now. They’re on fire. They’re winning games and scoring goals and they’re getting shutouts. I thought we did a really good job of being balanced and organized and making sure we were aware of Adi when the ball is getting hit in long. But then you always have Blanco and Valeri coming underneath and they’re so capable of picking guys apart."
Kansas City kept the clean sheet despite the halftime departure of Matt Besler with a minor injury. (After the game Besler was very mobile in the dressing room and wasn't seen applying ice.)
Without SKC's captain in the second half, Melia explained it was just a matter of solid team defense.
“Our defensive midfielders did a really good job stepping into the spaces and as well as our center backs to close down those threats,” he said.