KANSAS CITY – Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes said he could tell by this week’s training that his squad was going to play well this weekend. His premonition was accurate. Behind a brace from Diego Rubio, Sporting took down Portland 3-0 at home Saturday night.
The entire Sporting offense was active from the jump. Possession leaned heavily in Kansas City’s favor, and the club fired 11 shots (six of them on goal) in the first half. But it was Rubio who first translated activity into goals.
Rubio found himself with space in the middle of the box in the 28th minute, and his blistering shot arrived just inches inside the near post.
Less than 10 minutes later, in the 37th, Rubio’s next goal manifested on the defensive end. Matt Besler intercepted possession in the back third and weaved through the midfield, integrating some give-and-go action with Felipe Gutiérrez. Besler got the ball to Daniel Salloi, streaking down the left flank. Squeezing into the edge of the box, Salloi transported the ball to Rubio. Rubio’s chance, almost straight down the middle, had enough power to blow past Portland goalkeeper Jeff Attinella.
“It’s ball movement, of course, but it must be fast,” Rubio said. “When you pass the ball fast, spaces are going to open. So it was perfect today.”
His brace was the latest in his productive run of form. He has either scored a goal or notched an assist during each of his last five appearances.
“I know he (Rubio) scored two goals tonight, which was great,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said. “They were really good because that’s what he’s best at – in and around the box there. But a lot of it has to do with his movement off the ball, and that’s why he’s found those situations. He wasn’t standing. He had movement in the play. He was already running before he even received the ball, and that made him a little bit more elusive to the defender.”
That movement extended to others besides Rubio, too.
Johnny Russell, who had only been on the field 10 seconds before launching a shot into the side netting, eventually got his opportunity too. In the 89th minute, Russell’s give-and-go with Krisztian Németh set up his chance at the top of the box. Once he got possession back from Németh, Russell launched an easy chip shot over Attinella.
Kansas City finished the win with 25 total shots. Its shots-on-goal total (10) was more than Portland’s entire shot total (seven).
“I always say if you’re gonna break a team down that’s bunkered down, you have to have quality on the field,” Vermes said. “And then other piece is you have to have really good movement off the ball, and we had both. We had good quality on the field, and I thought our movement was excellent tonight in the game. We probably could have scored two, three more goals. I thought their goalkeeper actually made some pretty good saves.”