Portland, OR (SportsNetwork.com) - Lawrence Olum's first-half strike proved to be the difference as Sporting Kansas City claimed a 1-0 victory over the Portland Timbers on Friday at Providence Park.
Friday's clash was a return to league play for both sides following a league- wide recess for the group stages of the World Cup, as Sporting Kansas City exacted a measure of revenge after falling to Portland in U.S. Open Cup play earlier in the week.
Portland was on the front foot in the early stages and looked to have taken the lead inside the opening 20 minutes when Darlington Nagbe lofted a cross into the area where new Designated Player Fanendo Adi nodded it home, but the goal was called back by the assistant referee for offside.
The goal came in the 24th minute through a set piece as defender Seth Sinovic set the scoring play in motion with a long throw-in into the penalty area. The ball bounced in the box and Kevin Ellis got a quick touch before it fell to Olum, who calmly slotted it home to give the defending champions the advantage.
As the second half wore on, Portland continued to push the pace, creating several quality scoring opportunities, but chance after chance went by the wayside for Caleb Porter's side as the finishing was a tad off all night.
With eight minutes to play, Porter pulled out all the stops, withdrawing defender Michael Harrington in favor of skilled attacker Max Urruti, hoping to provide a late offensive jolt.
But the late change failed to pay dividends as Sporting Kansas City held on for a nervy three points, which moves the defending champions level with D.C. United atop the Eastern Conference with 25 points.
Portland, meanwhile, lost at home for just the second time this season, and remains in sixth place in the Western Conference with 20 points from 17 matches.