The Western Conference’s two hottest teams will meet on Saturday night when conference leaders Sporting Kansas City visit the Portland Timbers at Providence Park.
Kansas City (8-2-4) has been excellent all season, losing only once in the 13 matches that followed a season-opening loss.
Yet even SKC coach Peter Vermes can’t help but be impressed with Portland’s recent play under first-year coach Giovanni Savarese, who has guided the Timbers (6-3-3) to a 6-0-1 mark over their last seven matches.
“First off, they’re a team that competes, right?” Vermes said of Portland. “And the other side of it is they have some great stuff going forward. (Diego) Valeri is always in the thick of it all, then you add (Fanendo) Adi and everything just starts to build off of that. So it’s just a tough team to play. It really is.”
That’s not to mention MLS debutant Samuel Armenteros, who after a slow start to his Portland tenure has scored three goals in his last three matches and earned consecutive starts at striker ahead of Adi.
However, the Timbers are coming off arguably the most uneven performance of their unbeaten run, when they managed only to salvage a 1-1 draw at home against the 10-man LA Galaxy last Saturday.
It might have been a loss had midfielder Andres Flores not drawn a penalty kick in the second half.
“We found a couple of spaces and we had opportunities, but we couldn’t find the goal to win the game,” Flores said. “They were very tough on the back line.”
Meanwhile, Kansas City defeated Minnesota 4-1 at home on Sunday in its last league match, before both teams also picked up midweek victories in the U.S. Open Cup.
That could mean a few lineup tweaks, especially for a Kansas City team that will be playing its third game in a week and also traveling. For Portland, it’s a third game in eight days.
In general, the coaching battle between Vermes and Savarese could be an intriguing one, given the pair’s relationship as former teammates on the New York/New Jersey MetroStars in the early days of MLS.
“He’s done a good job and he’ll have his team ready to compete,” Vermes said of Savarese. “And it’s going to be one of those tough games in our conference.”
—Field Level Media