Saturday, August 06, 2016

Match Day 25: The Final Stretch

Sporting Kansas City head into the final 10 games of the MLS regular season tomorrow when they play the Portland Timbers in the second of back to back games between the two. Kansas City won their home game last weekend to move themselves five points clear of the Timbers and the red line for missing the playoffs. Kansas City will be looking to extend that total to eight in tomorrow's game at Providence Park.

While these games are back to back for Sporting Kansas City, the Portland Timbers had a mid-week game on Wednesday in the CONCACAF Champions league. The Timbers started their campaign with a 2-1 win over CD Dragon of El Salvador. It wasn't easy for them though especially with a lineup that included 10 of the 14 players that played on Sunday in Kansas City. Portland has put an emphasis on the CCL with playing their first team, but with a team that is struggling for healthy players, especially on defense, it could leave some tired legs on Sunday. The club looks like they'll still be without Liam Ridgewell who is still trying to get back from his calf injury, which means another makeshift back line for the Timbers at center back.

Kansas City meanwhile may finally be getting some of their players healthy in time for their brutal travel stretch that starts next week. Graham Zusi traveled with the team to Portland after playing in just one of the last five games. Also close to being available is center back Nuno Coelho who has played just two of the last 10 games for Sporting KC. Their return will be quite welcome and will allow KC to give some players a rest during this busy stretch. Tomorrow though Sporting will likely be sticking close to the same lineup that they put out last weekend, even in goal where Tim Melia looks set to miss his second game in a row due to a back injury. The team will be forced into one change as Jimmy Medranda is suspended tomorrow due to yellow card accumulation.

Hallisey - Dwyer - Peterson
Espinoza - Feilhaber
Sinovic - Olum - Opara - Abdul-Salaam

Number to Remember - 482 - That's how long Sporting KC's shutout streak against Portland is in the regular season. Kansas City haven't allowed a league goal to the Portland Timbers since Rodney Wallace scored in the 58th minute of Portland's 3-2 win in Kansas City back in 2013. In Portland, the Timbers have only scored twice against KC in league play, and one of those was a Chance Myers own goal.

Key Match Up - Ike Opara vs Fanendo Adi - These two got into it last week with a number of match ups against each other. Adi left Opara bloodied twice from elbows while the two challenged for balls. As Opara walked off the second time he got into Adi's face.

PREDICTION - With the number of starters that Portland had playing on Wednesday, there could certainly be some tired legs for the Timbers come Sunday when they play Kansas City. With that though KC still has to be mindful of the Timbers speed, Darlington Nagbe and Diego Valeri both have the ability to ping balls all over the field and can find a streaking runner on the counter. For their part, Kansas City would have blown the Timbers out if not for the goalkeeping of Jake Gleeson. On the road this week KC is going to have to make their chances count more, The Timbers are a much better team at home than they are on the road (all of their seven wins this season have been at home), KC will have to take more advantage of their chances. With KC's struggles on the road this season (2-6-3) and Portland's success at home, I can't see KC getting all three points.

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

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