Published on July 5th, 2017 | by Ryan Voyles0
Don’t Get Pricked: Chicago Fire vs. Portland Timbers Preview
After several weeks enjoying the hot and humid Midwest, the Chicago Fire head out tonight to the Pacific Northwest in hopes of adding another achievement to their list this season: a victory at Portland Timbers’ Providence Park.
It has not happened the last seven times the two teams have played in the City of Roses, but this Fire team seems as well equipped as any to chop down the Timbers. The match begins at 9:30 p.m. tonight.
And now, what to watch for?
Now With Extra Support(ers)
Forced pun aside up above, the last week has been fairly crazy for the Men in Red. It could have been easy to dwell on last Wednesday’s disappointing defeat in the US Open Cup at the hands of USL side Cincinnati FC, but the Fire cast aside any bad juju with a 4-0 thrashing at home Saturday night against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
The victory, along with a loss by Toronto FC, placed the Fire in sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference and ahead in the battle for the Supporters Shield.
That’s right, the two-time defending wooden spoon winners somehow find themselves alone atop the Eastern Conference standings past the halfway point of the season. Even the most optimistic of us (i.e. us saps who launched this site) thought this Fire team would be a fringe playoff team. Now, getting into the playoffs should be the least of the team’s aspirations.
Every Rose Has Its Thorn
I touched on it briefly up above, but even the best teams can find it near impossible to escape Providence Park with a win. Understandably known as one of the best supporter sides in the country, Timbers Army and the rest of the green-clad fans do everything they can to make the park a fortress for the home side.
So far the Timbers have paid back their devoted fans in the stands, having lost only one of nine home matches this season. Despite their overall inconsistency this season, at home the Timbers have outscored their opponents 19-9 (slightly inflated with a 5-goal and 4-goal games to start the season). Four teams have been able to walk out of Providence with a draw, so it is not like the Timbers have truly embarrassed everyone who has taken to the turf.
Some Extra Fireworks
Records aside, perhaps the most pleasant surprise for the Fire season has been their transformation into an offensive juggernaut. Since their frustrating 0-0 draw a month ago in Orlando, the Fire have scored 12 goals in their last four league matches, including back-to-back 4-0 blowouts. There is too much praise to pass around, from David Accam’s transformation into a blistering pace machine on the wings, to Mr. Golden Boot Nemanja Nikolic putting every shot he can in the net, Michael De Leeuw’s constant motor and peskiness, and German sensation Bastian Schweinsteiger delivering everything he can for this team. There does not seem to be anything particularly fluky about their run either; as the team easily passes the eye test with their free-flowing offense that uses pinpoint passing, speed and tenacity to overwhelm opponents (at least, if they’re not parking the bus in front of goal).
If there is any Fire team that can win in Portland, it’s going to be this 2017 version of the club. However, with Wednesday being the 4th match in less than 2 weeks, and having to play on Portland’s turf field, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Paunovic rests some players. Expect a B+ squad and a 1-1 draw between the two sides.