Timbers, Sporting Kansas City play to 0-0 draw

By Paul Danzer, Columbian Soccer, hockey and Community Sports Reporter

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PORTLAND – Chances. Chances. Chances.

If the Portland Timbers end up on the outside of the Major League Soccer playoffs, chances are they will lament the scoring opportunities that went unconverted.

In a scoreless draw with Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday at Providence Park, the Timbers played another engaging second half. But as has been the story often this season, they couldn’t find the one bit of magic to turn a good performance into a win.

“I can’t remember having better chances, honestly,” Timbers coach Caleb Porter said. “We had breakaways, one-on-one with the keeper. Those are the ones that you kind of get disappointed with.”

Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Tim Melia played the spoiler role, making seven saves including several unlikely denials.

“(The Timbers) didn’t have half chances, we had clear chances,” Porter said. “You have to credit their goalkeeper, of course. But we also made him look good on a few of those.”

Most of the drama came in the second half after both teams played afeisty but conservative first 45 minutes.

In the 64th minute, after a Kansas City shot hit the post, Melia came almost to the edge of the 18-yard box to block a Lucas Melano chance that developed after a nice combination between Fanendo Adi and Diego Valeri sent Portland racing forward.

In the 49th minute, Kansas City goalkeeper Melia made a great stop on the goal line to deny an Adi header. Melia came up big again in the 58th minute, batting away a Melano chance after Valeri won the ball and sent Melano free for a one-on-one chance.

Valeri praised Melano, but said all of the forwards need to score when chances appear.

“He forced the back line, he ran in behind very well, he created a lot of chances from his runs. The keeper was very good too,” Valeri said.

Portland’s one first-half chance came in the 29th minute when Adi took a shot from 18 yards that forced  Melia to make a left-footed save. That chance came off a quick counter from a Kansas City free kick, with Diego Valeri collecting a loose ball and sending Adi behind the defense.

Melia’s last big save denied Maximiliano Urriti’s close-range header, and in stoppage time a cross from Dairon Asprilla just missed connecting with Jorge Villafana at the back post.

Porter insisted confidence is not an issue despite the mounting number of missed scoring chances. He called the last two games his team’s two most complete of the season.

“These guys are confident. They don’t look tense. I didn’t think they looked uncomfortable in those moments,” Porter said. “I think the chances we got in this game were more clear-cut than any game all year.”

Portland goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey, who recorded his 12th shutout of the season made only two first-half saves. The first was on a Jacob Peterson chance that developed from miscommunication between Kwarasey and Norberto Paparatto. The second was a header by Saad Abdul-Salaam that went right to the Portland keeper.

Timbers 0, Sporting Kansas City 0

What it means: Portland (11 wins, 9 losses, 8 ties) and Sporting Kansas City (11-7-8) moved into a tie with Seattle for fourth place in the Western Conference. Kansas City has played two fewer matches than the Timbers and Sounders.

Big game for Jewsbury: Even four years after being traded from Kansas City to Portland, matches against Sporting are special for Missouri native Jewsbury, who still has friends on the SKC team and coaching staff. “Other than the big ones, the Seattle and Vancouvr, these are ones that to me personally mean a little more,” he said.

International impact: Will Johnson scored a goal Tuesday to help Canada advance past Belize in CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. And Alvas Powell played the entire match as Jamaica rallied late to down Nicaragua.

Lineup notes: With Will Johnson and Alvas Powell away with their national teams, and Diego Chara and Liam Ridgewell suspended, the Timbers used Taylor Peay at right back and Norberto Paparato at centerback alongside Nat Borchers, with Jack Jewsbury and George Fochive partnering again as defensive midfielders. By contrast, Sporting Kansas City had national teamers Matt Besler and Graham Zusi and the return from injury of defensive midfielder Soni Mustivar allowed Benny Fielhaber and Zusi to play in more attacking positions.

NEXT GAME: Sunday, Sept. 20 at 2 p.m. against the New York Red Bulls at Providence Park.