Craig Mitchelldyer/Portland Timbers
Left fuming after a controversial late penalty call denied them a victory against the New England Revolution on Wednesday night, the Portland Timbers will take on Sporting Kansas City in their first road match in nearly two months on Sunday — aiming to punch their ticket to the MLS Cup Playoffs (4:30 p.m., TV on ROOT Sports).

The Opponent

Sporting Kansas City's eight-year playoff streak was officially snapped on Wednesday night, when Peter Vermes' team went to Minnesota and were beaten by a 90th minute winner off the foot of rookie midfielder Hassani Dotson.

That those three points clinched the Loons' first ever playoff birth is fairly fitting: last winter, when longtime Sporting center back Ike Opara asked for a raise, Vermes decided to trade him. The result is that Minnesota is heading to the playoffs with Opara as a Defender of the Year candidate, and Kansas City is not.

That move, along with several others — the trade for Kelyn Rowe, the signing of Jose Fontas, the decision to go with Krisztian Nemeth and Erik Hurtado up top — backfired this year for a Kansas City team that regressed all over the field.

Vermes, the league's longest-tenured manager, has a big offseason ahead of him. With nothing to play for this week and next, that may well be where his focus is already.

The Tactics

This is Kansas City's last home game of the year, and, remarkably, their very first ever at Children's Mercy Park while eliminated from postseason contention.

If Kansas City want to leave their fans on a positive note on Sunday, they're going to need finish. They left a number of chances on the table against Minnesota, hitting the crossbar twice, and lost their grip on the game late just as they did when they faced the Timbers in Portland at the beginning of the month.

For Portland, preparing to play their fifth game in 15 days, fatigue is a central concern. It's an open question how intense this game will be — with Sporting already eliminated and both teams coming off of midweek games — but it will be interesting to watch early on how much tempo the Timbers try to play with.

Finishing is also key for Giovani Savarese's team. The Timbers have had chances during their winless streak this month, but, with the exception of Jeremy Ebobisse's second half goals three days ago, haven't done anything with them.

The Lineup

12 - Clark
2 - Moreira
33 - Mabiala
25 - Tuiloma
4 - Villafaña
21 - Chará
22 - Paredes
10 - Blanco
8 - Valeri (C)
17 - Ebobisse
7 - Fernandez

— Brian Fernandez missed Wednesday night's game with symptoms from the same stomach virus he's been battling for three weeks. It's anyone's guess whether he'll be ready to go for this one.

— Diego Chará and Jorge Moreira are the Timbers field players who have played every minute of this five-game-in-15-day stretch thus far. This isn't an ideal time to give either player a rest, but Savarese might be considering the option.

— With Larrys Mabiala back in the lineup, and Julio Cascante still out, Savarese has to choose between Claude Dielna and Bill Tuiloma at the other center back position.

The Memory

The Timbers' last win came against Kansas City on Sept. 7. They've scored only two goals in four games since.

The Pick

These two teams have produced a number of great games over the years, and while neither is having a vintage season, this should still be a plenty interesting match. It'll finish 1-1.