Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Match Day Playoffs: Second Season Begins

Sporting Kansas City is into the playoffs, now the second season begins as they'll take on the Portland Timbers tomorrow night in Portland. The match up will be the fourth time that these two teams have met this season. In the prior three matches this season between the two teams, there has been just a single goal, Krisztian Nemeth's solo effort in their last meeting earlier this month. It's certainly not a match up that will fill neutral fans with much joy over seeing these two teams play again.

While KC has shut the Timbers down this season, Portland has been almost unstoppable the last two weeks, scoring nine goals in their last two MLS games, a 5-2 win on the road in LA was followed by a 4-1 win over Colorado on the final day of the season. If the Portland offense is really starting to click this is a much scarier team to face. With the likes of Darlington Nagbe, who scored twice against Colorado, and Fanendo Adi, who scored twice against LA, leading the front line it is certainly a scary proposition. That offense hasn't been producing at this level all season though so heading into tomorrow the question is whether Portland has hit their stride or the last two games being outside the norm.

For Kansas City the big question is probably the health of Benny Feilhaber. KC's MVP started the season finale against the LA Galaxy on the bench, coming on as a half time substitute. Then news earlier this week came out that Feilhaber may not start Thursday either. The article made it seem like it was a fitness issue and too many minutes for the KC playmaker. At the same time we've seen Peter Vermes play coy before with player fitness and then start that player in the upcoming game. For the rest of KC's lineup I don't think you change anything about it. Roger Espinoza and Ike Opara remain unavailable and at this point I think that Saad Abdul-Salaam has earned the start at left back over Seth Sinovic with better performances in the last few games. That said it wouldn't surprise me to see Sinovic return for the playoff game.

Nemeth - Dwyer - Zusi
Feilhaber - Nagamura
Abdul-Salaam - Besler - Ellis - Myers

Number to Remember - 2 - That's the number of wins that KC has on the road in playoff history. A shootout win over the Dallas Burn in 1996 after a 2-2 draw in regulation, and a 2-0 road win over Colorado in KC's 2011 playoff run are the only two times that KC has won a playoff game on the road. Two is also the number of goals scored in the last four league games between these two teams. Both those goals have been scored by KC (Nemeth and Lawrence Olum).

Key Match Up - Tim Melia vs Portland attack - Over the last two trips to Portland Tim Melia has made a habit of coming up with some of his best performances of the season. With the way that Portland's attack has played the last two games KC is going to need another big performance for KC to advance.

PREDICTION - KC has the experience factor on their side, but they've been a poor team on the road in the playoffs throughout their history and have been below average on the road this year among playoff teams, only LA has won fewer games on the road this year than KC among playoff teams. On the other side of things KC has only lost three times to playoff teams this season so they know how to beat those teams. I'm just not sure that KC pulls this one out on the road. Unfortunately I see another early end to KC's season.

SKC - 1 (Dwyer)
PDX - 2 (Adi, Nagbe)

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