Sporting Kansas City vs. Portland Timbers | 2017 MLS Match Preview
Sporting Kansas City vs. Portland Timbers
2017 MLS Match Preview
Children's Mercy Park – Kansas City, Kan.
Saturday, July 1 – 7 pm ET
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There's been little arguing that the West is best in MLS over the past few years, with teams like FC Dallas, LA Galaxy, Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers winning trophies and lording over their Eastern Conference brethren. Another team that has been part of that has been Sporting Kanas City, and with their performances so far this year, it has been clear that they are the top of the pack in a weakened Western Conference.
Sporting are the only team in the West averaging more than 1.6 points per game (1.67), while three teams in the East (Toronto, Chicago, NYCFC) are all above 1.76 points per game. The West also has four of the five worst teams in terms of their points per game averages. SKC actually have a better record against the West (1.76 ppg vs. 1.4) than the East. With players missing due to international duty and injury, and playing on short rest after prevailing in the US Open Cup on Wednesday, Peter Vermes' team will have a difficult game but also a perfect opportunity to continue to assert that they are the best in the West against the Timbers.
Sporting Kansas City
The backbone of Sporting's record so far has been their sterling defense, which has conceded just 12 goals in 18 games. Ike Opara should be a candidate for Defender of the Year and Tim Melia is a clear frontrunner for Goalkeeper of the Year. They will have to continue these kind of performances over the next couple of matches without two key cogs, as Matt Besler and Graham Zusi have joined up with the US national team ahead of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
In their stead, we should see Saad Abdul-Salaam in the right back spot that he made his own in 2016. The former Akron Zip started 26 games last year and was one of the top right backs in MLS but, with Zusi being moved to defense, has made just two starts in 2017. In Besler's spot we should see Kevin Ellis, who has made three starts this year. Of course an option all Sporting and US fans would look to see at center back is Erik Palmer-Brown, who is no longer listed on the team's injury report with a thigh injury.
- Suspended: None
- Int’l Duty: D Matt Besler (USA), D Graham Zusi (USA), F Dom Dwyer (USA)
- Injury Report: QUESTIONABLE – M Benny Feilhaber (ankle sprain)
Projected Starting XI (4-3-3): GK: Tim Melia – Saad Abdul-Salaam, Ike Opara, Kevin Ellis, Seth Sinovic – Ilie, Roger Espinoza, Jimmy Medranda – Gerso, Latif Blessing, Daniel Salloi
Notes: Kansas City are unbeaten in their last 17 home games (13W-4D). Their last home match – a 1-1 draw with Montreal – ending a six-game home winning streak and a four-game streak of holding visitors scoreless...Gerso has completed 40 dribbles this season, the second most of any player.
If you were asked who has the worst record in MLS over the last two months, how long would it take you to get to the Portland Timbers? Well, they should be at the top of the list as over their last 10 games they have just nine points. Since April 24, that points per game average is tied for the worst in MLS.
The defense has struggled in the absence of Liam Ridgewell, but on Monday they did acquire a reinforcement in the form of Larrys Mabiala. The French center back will not be available on Saturday night, but should provide some stability once he arrives.
- Suspended: None
- Int’l Duty: None
- Injury Report: OUT – D Gbenga Arokoyo (Achilles tear), M Jack Barmby (calf), D Liam Ridgewell (quad injury), M Diego Chara (hamstring injury), D Amobi Okugo (knee injury); QUESTIONABLE – M Darlington Nagbe (hamstring injury)
Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1): GK: Jake Gleeson — Alvas Powell, Lawrence Olum, Roy Miller, Vytas — Ben Zemanski, David Guzman — Sebastian Blanco, Diego Valeri, Darlington Nagbe — Fanendo Adi
Notes: Portland have lost five straight road games, just two short of their seven-game away skid to end last season. The Timbers are allowing 2.6 goals per game over this span...Jake Gleeson has made 149 saves since the start of the 2016 season, the third most of any goalkeeper in the league.
- Overall: SKC lead 5-4-2
- At SKC: SKC lead 2-1-1
Referee: Alan Kelly
Assistant Referees: Matthew Nelson, Andrew Bigelow
Fourth Official: Juan Guzman