Sporting’s Depth Tested, Strengthened By Portland Timbers

In 2 matches over 4 days, Sporting and Portland Timbers proved polar opposites
by Skylar Rolstad   |   Tuesday, July 01, 2014

State of SKC - column on Sporting KC (SKC) & the Kansas City soccer scene.

Lawrence Olum’s goal was the difference between Sporting KC and Portland on Friday night in the Rose City.  The Kenyan international had been out in recent games due to international duty, which had served only to exacerbate Sporting’s injury epidemic.

Portland, on the other hand, left some of their players in Portland for the US Open Cup third round match in Kansas City but did not have much obligation. At least Aurelien Collin and Paulo Nagamura had returned from nagging injuries. Sporting’s failure to defend in their US Open Cup loss four days before their MLS match on Saturday was fixed by Kevin Ellis’ insertion at center back.

The Timbers were missing zero players due to international duty while Matt Besler and Graham Zusi represented the United States in Brazil. The match was in favor of Portland before kickoff but the ability to sign players that perform but are not prone to absence is a credit to Portland’s ability to scout and sign players.

These were players like Fanendo Adi, who missed a call-up for Nigeria and has recently found some impressive form with Portland.  Adi headed a Darlington Nagbe cross into Sporting’s goal on Saturday night but the play was deemed offside. Speaking of Nagbe, the Akron product is working on American citizenship and has been fantastic under former college coach Caleb Porter. Gaston Fernandez was another excellent signing in the offseason for Portland Timbers.

My last column covered Sporting’s willingness to sustain rather than replace, and Sporting have brought their two marquee American players from obscurity to essential places on the men’s national team. Kansas City has also focused on keeping players in the team and integrating them as future first-team players.

Sporting’s first match last week, which knocked them out of the US Open Cup at home, was a pathetic defensive showing from the team.  Peter Vermes resonated so in the post-game press conference. Erik Palmer-Brown’s inexperience made for a difficult situation for Sporting’s defense, which constantly lost shape and allowed inexcusable goals and a 3-1 loss.

Sporting’s huge win in Portland showed that they are a resilient team that will only get better in huge proportion at the end of the World Cup. The addition of Sal Zizzo on the wing this year and a recovering CJ Sapong will give Graham Zusi the opportunity for even more rest after the World Cup ends. Sporting are MLS champions in 2013 because of their depth, and in 2014 their roster proves even deeper.

NEXT UP: June 6 — Sporting Kansas City vs. Chicago Fire, Sporting Park, Kansas City, Kans. 3 p.m. EST, NBCSN.

Skylar ROLSTAD

Nationality:
USA
College:
Univ. of Kansas
Club Domestic:
Sporting KC
Club Foreign:
AC Milan
A student at the University of Kansas. He writes for the Sporting Kansas City club column for Soccer Newsday and is a regular at Sporting Park. His passion for soccer can best be described as unhealthy.
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