By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1
Sporting Kansas City earns a scoreless draw against Portland Timbers for leg one of the Western Conference Finals at Providence Park on Sunday night. Matt Besler, Graham Zusi and the rest of the top-seeded team shutout Portland in front of a sold-out crowd.
Despite ending in a draw, this match had no shortage of drama. Tim Melia was immediately called into action just a few seconds after the whistle blew – arguably setting the tone of the game. Melia would go on to record six saves, a clean sheet, and a first postseason shutout. Including, the final save that would decide the faith of the game.
Is the curse of the post finally broken? Maybe. In the sixth minute, Timber’s defender Jorge Villafana sends a low ball towards the ball only to see his effort bounce off the post that helped Portland win the knock round match in 2015.
Portland was forced to make an early sub in the 18th minute when Bill Tuilmoa replaced Larrys Mabiala. However, the early substitution did not slow Portland down as they continued to press Sporting KC’s defense. Fortunately, with the fast reactions from Melia, Zusi, and Besler, they were able to take Sporting KC into the half scoreless under pressure.
Sporting KC appeared to have adjusted from a choppy first half when Johnny Russell gets a great first touch after the restart. However, he sees his chance fly over the bar. Russell again would create more opportunities throughout the second half but fail to capitalize on his chances.
Russell was not the only one who almost opened the scoring. Ten minutes after Russell’s first attempt, Seth Sinovic struck in a 20-yard volley going straight into Jeff Attinella‘s arms – marking his first save of the night.
Portland came close to taking the lead in the 70th minute after David Guzman was able to get past Melia after Liam Ridgewell’s header came off the post, following a scramble in the box. However, Guzman’s goal was called offsides, giving Sporting KC a sign of relief. Still scoreless with less than 20 minutes of regular time, both sides pursued.
Manager Peter Vermes made an out-of-character decision to sub in Yohan Croizet for Russell in the last minute of stoppage time. Croizet’s addition did not make much of a difference as they ended the first leg in a scoreless draw.
Sporting KC will now host the Portland Timbers for leg two of the Western Conference Final on Thursday, November 29.
Featured image: @sportingkc Instagram
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