Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes and his Portland Timbers counterpart Gio Savarese were both hoping to build some momentum despite differing results in the US Open Cup.
Portland play host to SKC this weekend, with two of the Western Conference’s underachievers so far this season going up against each other.
The Timbers, defeated in the MLS Cup final last season, are 10th in the West while Kansas City sit 12th after underwhelming starts to 2022.
Sporting claimed a brilliant comeback win over FC Dallas in midweek, however, triumphing 4-2 in extra-time after being 2-0 down inside 34 minutes.
“I believe that we’ve been building towards this for a while. I think we’ve had really good performances,” Vermes said. “It has a lot to do with the fight of the guys and some guys getting back into form and some other guys still trying to get acclimated to who we are.
“They’re still not there yet, but we have got to keep working towards that. We have a couple of days to try to get ready for a tough opponent in Portland.”
Savarese, meanwhile, took the positives from a defeat to Los Angeles FC.
He said: “I think it says a lot when the man of the match is the goalkeeper for the other side, it’s a good sign in regards to that we put them in trouble, we were able to play very well and create opportunities and now we need to make sure that the margins that we were not able to achieve, we need to put in a little more in regards to finishing, being sometimes more aggressive in some moments, the little parts of the game that we just have to make sure we take advantage of is what was missing, the guys played very well.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Portland Timbers – Jaroslaw Niezgoda
Jaroslaw Niezgoda scored with his only attempt of the match in Portland’s draw against the New York Red Bulls last week. Niezgoda has scored 13 goals on just 32 shots in his MLS career (regular season), with the resulting 40.6 per cent conversion rate the best of any MLS player with five or more goals since the start of the 2010 season.
Sporting Kansas City – Nikola Vujnovic
Nikola Vujnovic netted his first goal for SKC in their comeback win over Dallas, and Vermes will be hoping the striker can now take that form into the league. He has played seven games without scoring so far.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– The Timbers have won three of their last five matches against Sporting Kansas City (D2 L0, incl. playoffs), including a 2-1 home win last June. Portland recorded just three wins in their first 16 MLS games against Sporting (D6 L7, incl. playoffs).
– The Timbers have won only two of their first 11 matches this season (D7 L3), the fewest wins for Portland over an 11-game span in a single season since May-July 2017 (also two). The current run of four straight matches without a win is Portland’s longest since going five straight without winning in September 2019.
– After opening the season with six losses in eight games (W2), Sporting Kansas City has drawn each of its last three matches, including a scoreless draw at NYCFC on Saturday. That draw ended a seven-match road losing streak for Sporting and was its first road clean sheet since last August at Minnesota.
– Sporting Kansas City’s goalscoring issues continued in their last MLS match, a 0-0 draw with New York City FC, the fourth time Sporting has failed to score this season.
– Sporting have scored more than one goal just once in their last 14 regular season games dating back to last season, a 2-2 draw with Dallas in April.