Sporting KC eliminated from U.S. Open Cup with 3-1 loss to Portland

06/24/2014 9:54 PM

06/24/2014 11:47 PM

As Portland midfielder Gaston Fernandez sprinted down the middle of the Sporting Park field Tuesday, he shouted for teammate Maximiliano Urruti to send a crossing pass into the box. Urruti instead implemented an even better plan.

He fired a shot at Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum, who saved the attempt before a rebound trickled six yards in front of an open goal. Fernandez was there to lazily tap it in.

An easy goal provided the finishing touch on a surprisingly dominant Portland victory.

The Timbers eliminated Sporting Kansas City from the U.S. Open Cup bracket with a 3-1 rout Tuesday in front of 11,138 fans at Sporting Park.

After hoisting the Open Cup in 2012, Sporting KC was dealt an early exit in the competition for the second consecutive season. This one featured an atypically sloppy defensive effort.

"This was one of the really bad performances I've been a part of," defender Seth Sinovic said. "We know we're better than that. We expect better than that from ourselves. We've got to take a good, hard look at ourselves and improve on that."

And soon.

Sporting KC will get another stab at the Timbers on Friday, when the teams meet in Portland to resume MLS action after a three-week break for the World Cup.

A result would require a better showing from Sporting KC — particularly on the defensive end — after the club was dominated on its home field Tuesday. Portland scored twice on point-blank shots within the goalkeeper box and another on a penalty kick to take a 3-0 lead before Soony Saad scored in the 75th minute to prevent a shutout.

"To be successful in any sport, you have to be able to defend, and you have to defend well. We've been very good at that over the last three or four years, but tonight we weren't," manager Peter Vermes said. "We were too easy to play against. We made it too easy for their guys on a regular basis."

Sporting KC pressured Portland's end for the opening 25 minutes, but the Timbers responded with a three-minute stretch that included three shots and finished with the first of two goals from Fernandez.

That was just the beginning.

Portland captain Will Johnson pushed the cushion to 2-0 when he buried a penalty kick in the 57th minute — awarded after defender Aurelien Collin was whistled for a foul against Steve Zakuani in the box. Fernandez made it 3-0 on the rebound goal in the 68th minute.

"It wasn't a penalty — because Collin kicked the ball before the guy went over his leg — but we deserved it because we let the same guy dribble around three guys," Vermes said. "So at the end, we deserved to get the penalty."

Portland returned the favor in the 75h minute when defender Danny O'Rourke was called for a handball, the setup for Saad's penalty kick. Saad has scored in each of the past three matches.

It wasn't near enough. Sporting KC was eliminated prior to the Open Cup quarterfinals for the second straight season.

"It's a trophy we don't have a chance to win now this year. We're out of it," Vermes said. "That's not going to sit well all season long. No matter what happens at the end of the season, we'll remember this was one we let get away because of our lack of defending at the end."

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