The Buzzsaw: Portland Timbers vs. Chicago Fire

Sitting fifth in the West, the Timbers look to douse the Fire on Friday.

By Mike Schwartz August 6, 2015

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Last Match Recap 

For the second time in less than a month, the Timbers and San Jose Earthquakes played out a grinding, physical 90 minutes. At Providence Park in early July, Jack Jewsbury came to the late rescue. This time, however, it was not meant to be. Diego Valeri won a late (75’) PK, but blasted the spot kick (and a chunk of the spot itself) squarely off the cross bar. The match ended in a scoreless draw.

What does it mean? 

You could argue that Portland executed a nearly-flawless road game plan and were just unfortunate to not convert the PK. Still, it feels more like two points dropped, rather than a point earned. The Timbers sit sixth overall, fifth in the West with a four point cushion over seventh-place RSL. Six of Portland’s 11 remaining games are at home; of those 11, nine are against Western Conference opponents.

Next Up

A team tied for the fewest point total in MLS, the Chicago Fire. Frank Yallop’s Men in Red have scored the third-fewest goals in the league, sport a -10 road goal differential, and have amassed a total of three points in nine games away from Toyota Park.

While they don’t score often, the Fire spread their goals up and down the roster. Chicago’s second-leading scorer is a centerback (Jeff Larentowicz), shining the spotlight on one of Portland’s most well-documented weaknesses: set piece defending. And it’s not just headers we’re talking about here, Jeff can score ‘em with his feet, too.

New signing Gilberto is a rare Designated Player who has suited up for another team. The Brazilian made 28 appearance for Toronto FC from 2014-15, scoring 7 goals; while on loan back in his home country, Gilberto netted 9 times in just 21 appearances for promoted side Vasco da Gama. 

Water Cooler Stat(s)

Sunday’s draw was Adam Larsen Kwarasey’s 9th clean sheet of the season, ascending Portland’s keeper into the league lead. Seven of those nine have come at home. At his current rate of a shutout ever 2.5 games, Kwarasey is on pace to equal Donovan Ricketts’s team record of 13, set in 2013. The Jamaican won MLS Goal Keeper of the Year as a result.

Opposing player to watch: Harry Shipp

The 23-year old Chicagoland native grew up in the Fire youth system and is among the most successful homegrown players in league history. Shipp is a true playmaking winger who leads his team in minutes, assists, and successful crosses. With a new weapon like Gilberto at his disposal, Shipp has plenty of talented targets to aim for.

Timber to watch: Liam Ridgewell

Portland’s DP defender needs to have a big game to ensure three points for the Timbers. Chicago is offensively top-heavy, and while they as a group are goal-strapped, Ridgewell will have his hands full a number of quality attacking options. Aside from Shipp and Gilberto, Frank Yallop deploys former EPL midfielder Shaun Maloney, speedy Ghanaian forward David Accam, and DP striker Kennedy Igbonananike. Chicago will come out looking to attack, and the Timbers can’t afford to go down a goal early.

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