PORTLAND, OR - JULY 02: Julio Cesar #55 of Sporting Kansas City celebrates C.J Sapong's goal against the Portland Timbers on July 2, 2011 at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Sporting Kansas City continue their Pacific Northwest soccer crusade as they face the Portland Timbers tonight at Jeld Wen Field. On Wednesday Sporting KC dispatched the Vancouver Whitecaps 3-1 but seemed shaky at points and now as they get set to face a ever-dangerous Portland side away, the 7-0-0 streak could be at its most vulnerable point.
While SKC has been tearing up the Eastern Conference standings, the Timbers have played poorly and see themselves at the bottom of the West, feeding off what points they can find. But that's not to say the Timbers don't have any tricks up their sleeve, former Kansas City man Jack Jewsbury was sensational for them last year and Scottish striker Kris Boyd has been Portland's go-to-man for goals this season.
Time: 9:30 pm CT, coverage on KSMO starts at 9:00 pm CT
Where: Jeld Wen Field, Portland, Oregon
Who: Sporting KC vs. Portland Timbers FC
What: Major League Soccer Round 7
Key Matchup: Sporting KC's legs vs. Jeld Wen Field's turf
This week's match up is a little different. Rather than being two players fighting against each other it's Sporting KC's tired and well-traveled legs against one of the Pacific Northwest's soccer marvels: turf. We saw it last week in Vancouver, a lot of players started to cramp up towards the end of the game and especially the older players will have difficulty playing on the hard surface. Simply put, Kansas City isn't used to this type of field and with their fatigued bodies playing on basically a field of rubber it will be interesting to see which one wins out.
Portland Timbers player to watch: Kris Boyd
In his short spell in Portland Kris Boyd has been everything the Timbers staff could have wanted and more. He's scored three times in six starts and has lead a much-improved-since-last-year Portland offense. With that in mind you have to feel that center back Aurelien Collin will have received instructions to man-mark the imposing Scottish striker while Besler will be left to tidy up the mistakes behind Collin.
It's true, Sporting KC's back four will need to keep a watchful eye on Boyd. Yet, from an outsider looking in point of view I hope he doesn't attract too much attention and pull all our defenders toward him, thus leaving a player un-marked on the wing like Darlington Nagbe or Kalif Alhassan.
Predicted Lineup: GK: Jimmy Nielsen RB: Chance Myers CB"s: Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler LB: Seth Sinovic CM's: Paulo Nagamura, Graham Zusi, Roger Espinoza RW: Kei Kamara ST: CJ Sapong LW: Jacob Peterson
Even though this is Sporting KC's third game in eight days I still feel there won't be a lot of squad rotation going around. I think Paulo will retain his starting position even though Julio Cesar has been upgraded to "Questionable" status for Saturday's game. Knowing Vermes though, I doubt he'll risk the 33 year old in what could turn out to be an extremely physical game.
I also still think Jacob Peterson will get the start in place of Bobby Convey. Peterson, when he's played this season, has looked good and I think it's time to throw in a new body at left wing as I'm still not too thrilled about Bobby Convey....yet.
Predicted Score: Sporting KC 2 - Portland Timbers 1
This game is tough to call, I'm hoping Sporting KC will approach tonight's match with as much caution as I am. Unlike previous fixtures we've had a pretty good idea of who will be starting, but with rumors of massive squad rotation being thrown around I can't help but feel anxious about tonight's game. Couple that with the slick surface and Sporting KC's tired legs and I'm not sure what to make of this game. Still though, Sporting KC hasn't gotten a 7-0-0 start because they've been anxious...