Sporting falls 2-1 to Timbers

Sporting Kansas City (5-3-2, 17 points) saw its four-game unbeaten run come to an end in a narrow 2-1 road loss to the Portland Timbers (4-4-0, 12 points) on Saturday night at Providence Park in Oregon.

Homegrown defender Jaylin Lindsey tallied his second goal of the season to give the visitors a first-half lead, but the Timbers struck twice before halftime through Dairon Asprilla and Marvin Loria to claim victory.

Still occupying second place in the Western Conference, Sporting will look to bounce back Wednesday when they play host to the third-place Colorado Rapids in a longtime rivalry match at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas.

Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. showdown are available at SeatGeek.com as former captain and goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen is inducted into the Sporting Legends hall of honor. Supporters can also catch the action live on Bally Sports Kansas City Plus and Bally Sports Midwest Plus.

With his team entering a busy stretch of three games in eight days, manager Peter Vermes made a trio of lineup changes from last weekend’s 1-1 home draw against Austin FC.

Midfielder Felipe Hernandez earned his first start of the season, replacing the injured Remi Walter, while Lindsey stepped in for the hamstrung right back Graham Zusi. In attack, striker Alan Pulido returned from international duty with Mexico to lead the front line as Khiry Shelton dropped to the bench.

Sporting goalkeeper Tim Melia entered the weekend with four clean sheets in five regular season appearances at Providence Park and stymied the home side within three minutes on Saturday. Asprilla was played into space on the left wing and sent a low, driven delivery into the box for Jeremy Ebobisse, whose backheel flick was palmed aside by Melia.

A delicately poised battle delivered its first goal off the foot of Lindsey in the 28th minute. Center back Andreu Fontas slipped a long through ball into the running lane of Luis Matins, whose cutback pass found Pulido at the top of the box.

His initial shot was blocked but Pulido did well to keep possession along the left endline and uncorked a deflected cross that reached Lindsey on the opposite side of the penalty area. The 21-year-old Sporting KC Academy product sent a superb first-time effort into the top right corner for his second goal in as many away matches.

The Timbers took only eight minutes to restore parity. An in-swinging Diego Valeri free kick was nodded clear only as far as Asprilla, whose initial strike was repelled by Lindsey. The Colombian found the back of the net with his second bite of the apple by beating Melia on a shot that nestled inside the near post.

The visitors suffered another setback on the stroke of halftime as Loria fired Portland ahead. The attacker went on a surging run into the box and saw his attempted pass carom fortuitously off Lindsey and skip back into his own path for the simplest of close-range finishes.

Loria bagged his second goal of the campaign on the play as Sporting fell behind for the eighth time in 10 games this year.

Sporting’s captain almost equalized two minutes into the second half as Johnny Russell’s turf-trimming strike was cast aside by the outstretched foot of Portland goalkeeper Steve Clark.

The chance fell to the winger seconds after Pulido’s shot was blocked. Clark thwarted Russell once more on the hour mark, dropping to save his curler and extinguish the danger.

Hernandez went agonizingly close to opening his MLS scoring account in the 67th minute. Another wave of Sporting pressure culminated with a Russell shot that pinged off a Portland defender and bounced to the 22-year-old homegrown midfielder, whose venomous blast at the top of the penalty area deflected inches wide of the mark.

Portland’s hearts were in their throats again in the second minute of second-half stoppage time. Lindsey’s searching pass from the right wing fizzed across the face of the goal to Pulido, who took a touch before rifling inches wide of the near post and into the side netting.

The missed opportunity proved to be Sporting’s final look of the evening as the Timbers clung on to collect all three points.

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