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Sporting KC Falls 2-1 to Portland

May 26, 2024 - Major League Soccer (MLS)
Sporting Kansas City News Release

Sporting Kansas City (2-7-5, 11 points) fell 2-1 to the Portland Timbers (4-7-4, 16 points) on Saturday at Providence Park in Portland, Oregon.

Midfielder Memo Rodriguez bagged his first goal for Sporting in the 63rd minute, pulling his side level shortly after Felipe Mora had vaulted Portland ahead, but Evander's winning tally in the 79th minute gave the Timbers all three points and condemned Kansas City to its fifth straight league defeat by a single goal.

Four days removed from a 4-0 win over FC Tulsa in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round of 16, Manager Peter Vermes fielded a retooled lineup featuring five changes from back to front. Goalkeeper Tim Melia supplanted John Pulskamp between the posts, Rodriguez replaced Felipe Hernandez in midfield, and wholesale attacking changes saw Alan Pulido, Johnny Russell and Daniel Salloi lead the frontline.

A tightly contested first half brought bitter misfortune for the visitors in the 18th minute as Erik Thommy was forced to leave the game with a hamstring injury, summoning the introduction of fellow midfielder Felipe Hernandez. Prior to Thommy's exit, Timbers forward Jonathan Rodriguez raced onto a long ball over the top and rattled the post with a seething left-footed drive. Portland's first-year Designated Player tried his luck twice more on the cusp of intermission, prompting a save from Melia before seeing an audacious volley near the top of the box lift over the crossbar.

Mora nodded Portland into the lead on 51 minutes. Timbers talisman Evander did well to create space on the right side of the box before clipping a teasing cross to the opposite post, where Mora planted a header past Melia for his team-leading seventh goal of the season.

Sporting responded admirably as the match sprang to life over the final half-hour. Vermes' men drew level in the 63rd minute when a Portland turnover led to Pulido teeing up Rodriguez, whose 20-yard cracker nestled low into the left corner for his first goal as a member of Sporting and his first MLS tally since May 31, 2023, as a member of LA Galaxy. The excellent strike also gave Sporting a league-best seven goals from outside the box in 2024.

With newfound momentum, Sporting could have surged in front four minutes later, but Pulido's admirable effort fizzed wide by a matter of inches.

With both sides seeking a late winner, Portland regained their one-goal cushion in the 79th minute. Evander went from provider to goal scorer, hammering a low shot into the left corner from near the penalty spot on a headed assist from Felipe Mora. The play was initially ruled offside, but VAR intervened and the goal was given.

Sporting survived a close scare in the 85th minute when Evander's delivery into the box was nearly steered home by center back Miguel Araujo, but Melia produced a smart save to keep the score at 2-1.

At the opposite end, Russell had a glorious chance to equalize for Sporting in the seventh minute of second-half stoppage time, latching onto a looping cross from substitute Willy Agada, but Portland goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau made a game-saving stop to preserve Portland's narrow lead to the final whistle.

Sporting has an opportunity to bounce back quickly, hosting Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Wednesday at Children's Mercy Park. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. CT with tickets available at and live coverage on MLS Season Pass via Apple TV.


Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes

Thoughts on the match...

I actually thought we did a pretty good job away from home. I need to see the two goals a little bit more. I haven't had a chance to look at them since I've come in. I think we were good on the ball. I thought we created some good stuff. Obviously, we got back into the game. I just think giving up the second goal obviously killed us as late as it was. At the end, we tried to move some guys around and get some fresh legs on there just because obviously we've been playing mid week so just trying to get some fresh legs at the end. When you look at it, we were trying to get in and around the box, but they did a good job defending at the end. I wouldn't say that we had a ton of chances. We were maybe a little bit off there at the very end, but I thought we actually played okay.

On losing Erik Thommy to injury...

I think there's no doubt that we miss him. I think we miss Remi (Walter) as well. And don't get me wrong, I thought when Felipe (Hernandez) came on, he actually did a good job. But, I would say he's more of a No. 8. He's not an attacking guy. Thommy's more of attacking guy in that position and losing that, it for sure hurt us.

On turning things around...

You have got to keep fighting for it. I think the energy and all that is there, but we have got to keep fighting for it. There's no other way to get around it. We have got quite a few games coming up and we have got to try to find a way to defend better and not put ourselves in a situation where we are chasing the game from behind. We have got to be better in that area.

On fighting back from going a goal down...

I don't think you can question that side of it from the group. I just don't. Having not seen the two goals like I'd like to before I comment on them, I just think in both plays - and, again, I'm going off of memory - I just think we can maybe be a little bit more aggressive to the service when the ball is played in. I think we have chances to get closer to the players that wind up crossing those balls over but, again, I need to see it a little bit more. But I don't think it's a lack of trying. We just, in those moments, have got to be so much better in and around the box.

On Portland limiting chances...

I'll say it again, Memo is not an attacking midfielder and neither is Felipe Hernandez. Thommy is and so when he went out, we lost sort of that attack out of the midfield. Early on in the game, I thought Thommy was very mobile and we were just off a little bit on the final pass to each other in and around their attacking third. You could see it coming. But then when he got hurt and had to go out, I think that hurt us up through the middle of the park by not having somebody that was more like a No. 10. And I think that's the reason why. It was more of that than anything else.

Sporting Kansas City midfielder Memo Rodriguez

On his goal...

It's a good goal by me with great buildup from the team. Obviously, the result wasn't there. We have just got to keep fighting and keep our heads up. We play well away from home and it's just a matter of us getting over that hump.

On changes in the midfield with Erik Thommy's injury...

Obviously, Thommy is an important player for the team, but we have Felipe (Hernandez) who came in and did a good job. It's next guys up. Obviously, injuries happen in the game. Like I said before, we played well. It's just those mental lapses by us defensively and getting over that hump. The effort was there. Playing away from home the way we did, it's just a little frustrating but we just have to keep our heads up and get over the hump. Now we have another game on Wednesday at home, so we have to pick up three points there.

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