Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes classified a second consecutive early exit from the U.S. Open Cup as a disappointment that would stick with his club for the remainder of the season.
This may soften the blow.
Three days after Portland eliminated them from the Open Cup competition, Sporting KC earned a form of payback with a 1-0 victory on the Timbers’ home field Friday night.
Lawrence Olum gave the club an early lead with a goal in the 24th minute, and Sporting KC made it stick in its first MLS match in three weeks.
“That’s who we are when it comes to fighting and not giving anything away,” Vermes said. “We were superb.”
It needed to withstand of flurry of action from Portland in the second half. That required an extraordinary defensive effort from a club that has led MLS in goals-against each of the past two seasons — but also one that leaked gaps in a home loss to Portland on Tuesday in the Open Cup.
Vermes was critical of his team following that loss — calling the defense “too easy to play against” — but that was far from problematic Friday.
“I thought from a tactical perspective, we were extremely efficient on the field,” Vermes said. “We were picking and choosing our moments on when to counter.”
Fittingly, a defensive specialist also provided the offense. Olum supplied the game’s only goal before his night was cut short with a groin injury.
Olum, a defensive midfielder, cleanly struck a loose ball toward the far post and past a diving Portland keeper Donovan Ricketts. That finished off a throw-in from Seth Sinovic, who offered his best Matt Besler impersonation by launching the toss into the box, allowing Kevin Ellis to deflect the ball to Olum’s right foot.
Olum picked up the second goal of his MLS career, with the first coming in last year’s regular-season finale in Philadelphia. Ellis was credited with an assist.
The second half was much less celebratory for Olum. He left the match in the 55th minute with an apparent groin injury, though Vermes said it was a “tweak” rather than a pull. C.J. Sapong entered the match to mark only his second MLS appearance since the end of March.
To make up for the loss of its defensive midfielder, Sporting KC shoved numbers backward, allowing Portland to dominate possession. The Timbers played the majority of the second half on Sporting Kansas City’s end of the field, but they couldn’t find a prime opportunity to prevent Eric Kronberg from earning his seventh shutout of the season.
Seeking its third straight victory in MLS play, Sporting KC returns home to play host to Chicago on July 6. The match starts at 2 p.m. at Sporting Park.
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