Portland 0-0 Sporting KC: Scrappy game ends goalless

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A physical, spunky game ended goalless at Providence Park after both teams had pockets of chances, but neither could create moments of true opportunity as the Portland Timbers and Sporting KC head to the second leg yet to find an opener.

The game was sizzling from start to finish, as Portland nearly grabbed the opener just five minutes in. A poor clear fell to Sebastian Blanco at the top-left corner of the box and he hit a speculative low effort on net that was aimed perfectly at the far post, but it struck the woodwork and skidded just out, along the face of goal.

Things slowed after that, and Portland lost Larrys Mabiala to a right leg injury, with the French defender forced off in the 19th minute. He was assisted off without putting any weight on his right leg, and had to be stretchered to the locker room. Portland remained in the ascendency, pressing the visitors into making mistakes in possession.

The game grew in physicality as both teams looked to use strength to retain possession. Portland again had a chance as some beautiful build-up play from one end to the other, including a back-heel from Jeremy Ebobisse that sprung Dairon Asprilla down the right. His cross to Diego Valeri was just under hit, and under challenge from a defender the chance evaporated on the break. The Timbers pummeled Tim Meila’s net towards the end of the first half, but the game reached the break scoreless.

Right out of halftime, KC had its best chance yet, and flubbed it. Johnny Russell came charging onto a loose ball into the box, and with the goal gaping, blasted it miles over the bar. Daniel Salloi had acres of space to shoot in the 57th minute on the break, but three Portland defenders closed it down and blocked the eventual effort. Down the other end, Jorge Villafana went down in the box under pressure from Russell but the referee waved play on, confirmed by VAR.

It appeared that Portland had the opener in the 70th minute as a set-piece turned into mayhem at the far post before David Guzman tapped it into the back of the net, but the assistant referee’s flag went up for offside, which replay confirmed was the correct call. The hosts had another huge chance in the 81st minute on a corner, as substitute Bill Tuiloma powered a thumping header towards the top-left corner, but Meila was there for a spectacular leaping save.

KC had one big chance right at the end of regulation, but Salloi’s effort in gobs of space to the right of the penalty spot was blocked on its way in. That would be the final opportunity, as the teams combined for 23 shots, seven on target, numbers that felt low for the flow of the game. The Timbers will feel they missed a chance to gain an advantage despite a shot disparity of 6-1 on target, but they held Kansas City without an away goal.