Kronberg's league-leading 7th shutout
Lawrence Olum scored the game's only goal and Eric Kronberg earned his league-leading seventh shutout as Sporting Kansas City beat the Portland Timbers 1-0.
The win moved Sporting KC (7-5-4) into a tie for first place with DC United in the Eastern Conference. Portland (4-5-8) remained in sixth place in the Western Conference.
In a scrappy match, with more flying kick attempts and fouls than quality goal-scoring chances, Sporting KC scored in the 24th minute. A long throw-in by Seth Sinovic into the Portland penalty area was knocked by Kevin Ellis into the path of Olum. The Kenyan put a right-footed shot past goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts for his first goal of the season. The assists were the first for both Ellis and Sinovic.
"We talked about set pieces being an important aspect of the game," said Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes. "We took advantage of it and, at the end of the day, I think it was a great three points for us."
Portland dominated possession for most of the game (66.9 percent to 33.1 percent), and especially in the second half (72-28), but was unable to convert it into much of an attacking threat. Kronberg needed to make three saves to earn the shutout, while his defenders blocked an additional three shots.
"In terms of flow, I thought we deserved better," said Portland head coach Caleb Porter. "But at the end of the day, we didn't get it done. Plain and simple."
'Flow' was not something the game had much of, thanks to a total of 33 fouls, 23 committed by Sporting KC. Add in four yellow cards for Sporting KC and one for Portland, which made it difficult for the Timbers to find an equalizer. But Porter did not blame the rough play for the loss.
"It's a part of the game. It's a tactic that teams use and we got to deal with it," he said.
It was the first league match for the teams in two weeks, thanks to a break in the MLS schedule during the group stages of the World Cup. But it was the second meeting between the teams in the last four days.
In a U.S. Open Cup match in Kansas City on Tuesday, Portland won 3-1, sending the Timbers into the quarterfinals and a showdown with bitter rival Seattle.
"It was a battle for 90 minutes and I felt like we had something to prove after the performance we gave on Tuesday," said Ellis. "We knew we had to come get a result and we did what we had to do to get three points."