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Sporting Kansas City-Timbers Preview
By KATE HEDLIN
(AP) -- Sporting Kansas City has been unbeatable thus far, and its next opponent isn't putting much fear into anyone.
Playing its second match of the week, Sporting KC looks to extend its season-opening winning streak to eight when it visits the last-place Portland Timbers on Saturday night.
Kansas City is off to the best start by an MLS team since the 1996 Los Angeles Galaxy won their first eight games in regulation, and their first 12 overall.
Led by an outstanding defense and goaltending from Jimmy Nielsen, Sporting also showed some offensive power in a 3-1 victory at Vancouver on Wednesday.
"I don't have any doubt that they're the best team in MLS right now," Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie said. "I think that would be very hard to argue."
Aurelien Collin and Kei Kamara scored while Martin Bonjour was charged with an own goal in the 51st minute. Kamara's goal in the 65th minute was his team-leading fourth of the season and second in three games.
"At the end of the day, I think our players have approached this fantastically," coach Peter Vermes said. "I think they've stayed extremely humbled, extremely focused, not getting ahead of themselves, and they've gone out and performed an executed. When you do that, you give yourself a chance."
One of the things Kansas City wasn't happy with was the pressure Nielsen faced. He came in having recorded three consecutive shutouts, needing to make only one save during the stretch, but he faced seven shots on goal from Vancouver.
Nielsen has been critical to Sporting's hot start. The club struggled at the beginning of last season and didn't earn its seventh victory until Aug. 3, while Nielsen allowed 14 goals in his first seven starts.
As Sporting makes a quick turnaround in its second road game of the week, Portland (1-4-1) will look to snap a franchise-worst four-game losing streak.
The Timbers have gone five games without a win since a season-opening 3-1 victory over Philadelphia on March 12. They've given up eight goals in the last three, losing 3-1 at Los Angeles last Saturday.
Portland struck first but had a season-low eight shots. It gave up the go-ahead score in the 83rd minute and another in stoppage time.
"We can point to a decision going our way or not going our way and that could change the game," coach John Spencer, who shook up his lines, told the Timbers' official website. "And right now, we're just not getting any breaks."
Troy Perkins has started all six games, but the play in front of him isn't helping. The Galaxy put nine shots on goal, the most he's faced this season, and Perkins has made 20 saves - only three off the lead in MLS.
"We can't come into the locker room and say 'Oh we should have done that, we should have done that,'" he said. "Cause it's over with. You can't change any of it. That's the thing we've been preaching all week, is show it on the field."
Portland was outscored 5-2 in losing both games against Sporting last season.
Updated April 20, 2012