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Sporting KC returns to form, defeats Portland 3-1
There you have it. Sporting Kansas City returns to its winning ways in front of the home crowd, beating the Portland Timbers, 3-1. Graham Zusi was the easy choice for man of the match with his two goals. Newcomer Saad netting his first goal in MLS to round things out.
Overall it was a solid performance by Sporting and one that you would expect from a team that had so much time to rest. It would have been nice to see the team keep that garbage goal out, but three points is three points. Late-game defense is going to be something Sporting will have to figure out before playoffs if it wants to make any sort of run.
Next up for Sporting is DC United on Sunday at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park. Opening kick is set for 7:30 p.m.
Nielsen apparently went down in the first half after being struck by an Omar Bravo bobblehead. The items were passed out to the first 10,000 at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park tonight.
On a side note, Bunbury didn't pass to an open teammate for what would have been a near-certain goal. That's twice in two games. Find your touch or get your head up.
71:20 — Second half
Soony Saad may just make a psychic out of me with that goal. His first and Sporting's third of the game. The forward, who is celebrating his 19th birthday today, had a deflection take a sweet bounce over the Portland keeper. What a way to start your MLS career.
64:00 — Second half
The intensity has dropped off a little since the start of this second half. It hasn't mattered much up to this point as Portland has still not found a way to get a quality shot on goal. Chances are starting to come, but nothing solid has been strung together. It's as though the Timbers are just missing their finishing touch lately. Not the worst news for Sporting.
Vermes made his first substitution around the 60th minute. I'd look for him to make another, either in midfield or up top, in the next ten minutes. Tired touches are leading to bad giveaways by Sporting. While a 2-0 lead should be comfortable, 25 minutes is too long to let the opponent set up shop in front of goal. The mistake teams at all levels seem to make at this stage of the game is going into a defensive shell. The easiest way to finish a game is to keep attacking. Not overcommitting, but attacking. Find players down the wings and have them take it to the corner. That way you keep it as far away from your goal as possible and either earn a corner or give up a usually harmless goal kick. Both are great time wasters.
This game's end result was decided in the first half. Let's hope Sporting knows that and finishes with all three points.
With a largely dominant first half, Sporting Kansas City heads to the locker room up 2-0 at the break. Sporting moved the ball well and made smart plays, setting themselves up perfectly to be in the lead.
Portland so far looks confused on defense and hasn't figured out a way to compete with the size of some of the Sporting players. Without knowing the stats, I'd guess possession favors Sporting in that half. That's usually the case when a team is on top.
In the second half I'd like to see manager Peter Vermes sub earlier rather than later. A gassed Kamara is less effective than a fresh anybody else. Even if the players want to stay on, the moment you see someone start dragging you have to make the change. Sporting fans will remember a number of occasions this season when the team seemed untouchable and gave everything away in the final minutes of the second half. Vermes needs to make subs around the 65-70 minute mark to make sure the new players have time to get to game speed before the final opposition push.
Of course, that could all just not matter if KC can put at least one more goal away.
40:00 — First half
Zusi just netted his second goal of the first half on a play that started with a long throw. The ball, after being controlled and shot by Sporting, fell to the feet of Zusi, who made no mistake with the opportunity.
At this rate the final score will be 4-0 and I'll once again have missed a prediction. I don't think Sporting fans will mind this one.
25:35 — First half
Well that was a wonder strike by Zusi. Got over the ball on the bounce and just drove it into the far side netting. Sporting Kansas City takes the 1-0 lead with that, Zusi's fourth goal of the season.
Strangely, it looked like Jimmy Nielsen was hit by a thrown item or something behind the net after the goal. Eric Kronberg is warming up to come in. What's going on?
10:36 — First half
Ten minutes into this contest between Sporting KC and Portland and there hasn't been much to talk about. Touches from both sides have yet to find their targets consistently. That should change as players get into the flow of the game.
So far I like the energy from Sporting. Players are going hard to every ball and as I'm typing this they are finding a way to hold possession inside Portland's box. If this kind of intensity continues for any period of time — it's difficult to maintain — we will see a goal in the next fifteen minutes.
Graham Zusi is looking more active in his midfield role than he has the past few games and Chance Myers is pushing forward well. Eventually one of those crosses won't be over Kei Kamara and good things will happen. The only problem with offensive pressure is that it sometimes leaves teams open in the back. Sporting fans are no stranger to defensive lapses, so that'll be something to watch as this game progresses, too.