BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) – With three wins in its last four games and a seven-match unbeaten streak, Sporting Kansas City could easily say things are going its way again after a rough road-exclusive opening stretch.
It's about to find out if it can continue its strong play without its captain.
Sports hernia surgery will keep Davy Arnaud out for at least a month, leaving Sporting KC with a major hole in its midfield as it tries to extend its unbeaten run to eight for the first time in seven years Saturday night against the Portland Timbers.
Kansas City knew it could find itself with a major disadvantage in the standings after opening with 10 straight road games while its new stadium was finished, but it's gone 3-0-4 since starting 1-6-1.
Sporting (4-6-5) fell behind visiting Vancouver 1-0 in the 15th minute last Saturday but scored two goals before halftime, including Omar Bravo's first since the season opener, en route to a 2-1 win.
"The change is obvious," said Bravo, who missed nearly two months with sports hernia surgery. "The attitude with the players, the discipline has changed since early in the season. Things have been a lot more positive. Things are looking better, all in all with the team."
Just as Bravo has seemed like he's fully recovered, though, another sports hernia struck Kansas City's lineup. Arnaud has been bothered by the injury for most of the season and elected to have surgery next week in Los Angeles.
"It's part of the way the ball bounces sometimes so we'll deal with it as we go," coach Peter Vermes told the team's official website. "Not only do we lose the captain but also we lose a guy that I know will come and give it every game."
A positive result in Portland would give Sporting its longest unbeaten stretch since a 6-0-3 run June 5-July 24, 2004.
Based on how the Timbers (5-7-3) have fared lately, Kansas City shouldn't have too much trouble securing at least a point. Portland hasn't won in five games and lost for the fourth time in that span last Saturday, 4-0 at FC Dallas.
After watching his team concede 20 shots, coach John Spencer wasn't pleased with the Timbers' effort, to put it mildly.
"I don't think anybody that pulled on a green jersey tonight was a threat to Dallas," he said. "They handled us pretty well, manhandled us and that's what happens when you're not ready to play. I was very disappointed towards the end with the effort, because at times, it just looked like we laid down and died."
Portland opened with five consecutive wins at home but is 0-2-1 since then.
Spencer said he plans to make some lineup changes - he hasn't committed to any yet - but there's one he won't have to make. Captain Jack Jewsbury, who spent eight seasons with Kansas City, is expected to face his former team despite nursing a strained left hamstring.
Jewsbury leads Portland with four goals and six assists.