Major League Soccer

Sporting Kansas City-Timbers Preview

Giovanni Savarese insists Portland Timbers "feel stronger" despite losing a couple of key players to international call-ups.

Felipe Mora and Yimmi Chara are part of Chile and Colombia's Copa America squads respectively and will not return until the start of July at the earliest.

However, the Timbers have used the three-week break between matches to get other players back to full fitness, just in time for a grueling run of fixtures.

With the likes of Marvin Loria, Dairon Asprilla and new signing George Fochive raring to go, Savarese is pleased with his options ahead of Saturday's visit of Sporting Kansas City.

"We've lost two important players, but the group has been working well and we're excited about playing again against a good team," he said.

"It's unfortunate that when we get some players back, we lose others. But good for them, there's nothing that makes you feel more proud than to representing your country.

"Hopefully they can come back safe. In the meantime, we've recovered others and that's important for us to play competitive. We're not at full strength but we feel stronger."

The Timbers have been given the green light to welcome around 20,000 fans to Providence Park this weekend.

That home advantage could come in handy against a Sporting side positioned second in the Western Conference and unbeaten in four, winning three of those games.

Sporting have fallen behind in their last three games, but boss Peter Vermes does not see that as a concern.

"Not at all," he said. "I think that when you play the way that we've been playing the last four-and-a-half games and the way that we're playing, it's going to continue to keep yielding results.

"It's one thing to possess the ball, it's another thing to possess the ball and create high-quality chances and we're doing that.

"I'm very, very pleased with the way that the guys are evolving so early on in the season."

Portland Timbers - Jeremy Ebobisse

The absence of Chara and Mora, the latter of whom scored twice in the Timbers' most recent win, will leave a big void to be filled - though Savarese is clearly confident he has players capable of doing so. Ebobisse may get the nod in attack on Saturday and could do with getting off the mark with his first goal, having so far fired blanks in five league outings this term.

Sporting Kansas City - Alan Pulido

Sporting have scored an MLS-high 16 goals this season on a league-high expected goals (xG) return of 19.6. Six of their players have an xG of at least 1.0, led by Daniel Salloi (4.5) and Pulido (4.1). Pulido has spent the past fortnight with the Mexico national team, but he is now back in contention for this showdown with Portland and will be looking to pick up from where he left off, having scored a league-high five goals in May.

- Portland has won two of its last three games against Sporting Kansas City (D1, including playoffs) after winning just three of the first 16 MLS meetings between the sides (D6, including one penalty shootout win, L7) in the regular season and playoffs.

- The Timbers has lost four of its first seven matches this season (W3), including a 3-0 defeat at the Union in its last match. The Timbers did not lose for the fifth time until their 17th match last season, when they lost 2-1 at Real Salt Lake in October.

- Sporting Kansas City came from behind to draw 1-1 with Austin FC last week, the third straight game that Sporting has gone behind and avoided defeat (W2 D1).

- Sporting has now come from behind to avoid defeat five times this season (W4 D1), with no other team doing so more than three times (Nashville SC - D3).

- The Timbers have conceded an MLS-high eight set piece goals this season. A league-high five of those goals have been scored off corners.

Updated June 18, 2021

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