A two-goal performance by midfielder Graham Zusi guided Sporting Kansas City to a 3-1 win over the Portland Timbers on Wednesday night at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park.
During the match, Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen was struck by a piece from an Omar Bravo bobblehead doll, one of thousands given away to fans in attendance. The Danish keeper lay on the field for four minutes but was able to continue after being checked out by medical personnel.
Two people were arrested.
Nielsen, who was getting a drink beside the goal when he was hit, said he's had objects thrown at him "a million times, but never at home.
"It happens," he said. "It's no big deal."
Sporting KC claimed the lead in the 25th minute on the opening goal of Zusi's first-half brace, smashing a long-range shot into the top corner of the goal from 25 yards out. Five minutes from halftime, Zusi struck again, capitalizing on a free ball in front of the goal for his second goal of the night, to give Sporting KC a 2-0 lead at the break. Down by three goals late in the match, forward Bright Dike scored his first of the season to put the Timbers on the board in the loss to Sporting KC.
Zusi recorded his second two-goal performance of the season, rookie Soony Saad scored in his MLS debut and Nielsen logged two saves in his seventh win of the season for Sporting KC (7-7-9, 33pts), playing its first league match since Aug. 6. With the victory, Sporting KC remains in the race for a postseason berth.
Dike recorded his first MLS goal, defender Rodney Wallace logged his first assist of the season and midfielder Jack Jewsbury matched a career-high with his seventh assist of the season for the Timbers (7-12-5, 26pts) in their second straight loss on the road. Portland is in the middle of stretch of five league games in 14 days.
Zusi scored his first goal of the night and his fourth of the season in the 25th minute. A cross in from the right side was cleared out by the Timbers, but the ball fell onto the path of Zusi in space 25 yards out. With time, the midfielder cracked a shot into the top left corner of the goal to give Sporting KC a 1-0 lead.
In the 40th minute, Zusi capped his brace to put Sporting KC up 2-0 heading into halftime. Off a throw-in on the left side, the ball was flicked on by forward Kei Kamara and it fell to striker Teal Bunbury on the right post. Bunbury's shot was blocked by Portland goalkeeper Troy Perkins on his post, but the ball deflected back into play and was left available for Zusi to slide in and knock the ball over the goal line.
Ten minutes after entering the match as a sub, Saad scored his first professional goal to lift Sporting KC to a three-goal advantage in the 73rd minute. Timbers defender Eric Brunner beat Saad to a ball played through into the box. As Brunner attempted to clear the ball, it deflected off the shin of Saad. The ball looped up and dropped in behind Perkins and bounced into the back of the net.
Portland found the back of the net in the 81st minute. Jewsbury sent the ball down towards the left corner for Wallace running down the sideline. The defender crossed the ball in to Dike along the near post 12 yards out from goal. Dike redirected the cross towards the far post and the ball bounced around a defender, by Nielsen and just inside the right post for the goal.
Sporting KC pressured the Timbers' defense throughout the first half and had a chance to take an initial lead in the 19th minute, when a shot by midfielder Milos Stojcev from outside the box was deflected by Brunner and the ball rattled off the crossbar. Timbers defender David Horst broke up a scoring chance for Bunbury in the 33rd minute with a sliding challenge inside the box as the striker looked to force a one-on-one with Perkins with a threatening run at goal.
The Timbers' offense found more rhythm in the second half, as the club generated five of its seven shots on the night in the final stanza. In the 59th minute, forward Kenny Cooper headed a long cross in from Brunner just wide of the goal from 12 yards out. Just past the hour mark, Jewsbury received a back pass from teammate Kalif Alhassan and cracked a shot on frame, but it was blocked by Sporting KC defender Julio Cesar on its way through.
Sporting KC had another shot rattle off the woodwork near the 55th minute. Off a short corner taken by the home side, Kamara headed a cross in by defender Chance Meyers off the crossbar. Kamara then had his follow-up attempt blocked by Brunner and Portland was then able to clear the ball.
Perkins made two of his three saves in the second half, including a clutch stop in the 80th minute on a breakaway by Bunbury. As Bunbury drove into the box, Perkins charged off his line and ended the threat with a sliding stop, which stripped the striker of the ball.
The Timbers play host to fellow MLS expansion side Whitecaps FC on Saturday at JELD-WEN Field at 7 p.m. (PT) live on FOX Soccer. Portland then welcomes Chivas USA to the Rose City on Wednesday, Aug. 24, at 8 p.m. (PT) in its final home match in the month of August.
Copyright 2011 KPTV. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.