Things looked bleak in the 58th minute after Ben Zemanski gave Portland a 2-0 lead but the Fire showed some resolve and some heart in battling back against one of the better teams in the league this season. The first 15-20 minutes of the match featured some exciting moments on both ends of the pitch. Portland hit the woodwork three times in the opening four minutes of the contest and the Fire generated some good looks of their own.
The visitors took control of the game midway through the first half however, controlling the ball for 60% of the initial forty five minutes. The home team came out more purposefully to start the second but Zemanski's wide open look in the 58th seemed to seal things for the Timbers. Frank Klopas then decided to throw the kitchen sink at the Portland defense and the strategy worked. Removing Chris Rolfe, Dilly Duka, and Jeff Larentowicz in favor of Maicon Santos, Sherjill MacDonald, and Daniel Paladini put the Timbers on their heels and Chicago reversed the control advantage against one of the better possession based teams in the league.
The Fire's offensive effort created numerous chances and seemingly had Portland clinging for a point toward the end of the match. Mike Magee continued his stellar play since being acquired from Los Angeles scoring his third goal in three games in all competitions for Chicago. The Fire have to be just as enthused about the comeback effort as they were disappointed by allowing the first two goals but this game should be something to build on.
There was enough on the pitch in the last thirty minutes of the second half to believe that they could have found another goal somewhere. Even if they didn't, the 2-2 draw isn't a bad result. Now to keep the right combinations on the field and find a way to sustain and project that second half performance over a full ninety minutes.
Check out post game reaction from Mike Magee, Daniel Paladini, and Patrick Nyarko at the Fire Confidential Facebook page.
GK Sean Johnson (6) – Three saves but two goals allowed. The Fire might have been a bit fortunate that Portland found the post early and often but Johnson managed to get a hand on one and initially saved another.
D Gonzalo Segares (6) – Started the play that led to Magee’s goal with a quality stop and ball forward to Alex. Involved offensively early as both sides went up and down the pitch. Most of Portland’s trouble in the first half came from the other side of the field.
D Bakary Soumare (5) – The first half was probably a 4 with numerous unforced turnovers on bad passes directly to Portland players and a bit of ball watching on Valeri’s goal. Rebounded well enough in the second half with more of a presence in the middle but a weak backpass late was almost disastrous.
D Austin Berry (5) – Like everyone else he was better in the second forty-five with several clearances out of danger from the middle of the box.
D Jalil Anibaba (5) – Also shared in the suspect marking on Valeri’s goal and Harrington was running up and down the sideline in the first half almost completely unhampered to serve cross after cross into the area. He was very involved in the offense getting forward in the second half however.
M Jeff Larentowicz (5) – Portland had the ball for most of the first half and was able to find space with the Fire playing in a single holding mid formation. The game really seemed to turn in the 70th minute when Larentowicz and Duka were taken off in favor of Paladini and MacDonald. He wasn’t terrible but he wasn’t particularly effective either.
M Patrick Nyarko (6) – Didn’t figure into the scores but continues to work and create dangerous opportunities by playing in combination, drawing fouls, and beating opponents to the end line for either shots or crosses into the front of goal.
M Alex (6) – Spearheaded much of the play going forward throughout the game. The ball that led to Magee’s goal was mishandled by Kocic but it was Alex’s lead pass that made it possible. On the negative side, Zemanski’s goal came from the vacant space that should have been covered by one of the center midfielders. Larentowicz picked up his mark. Will Klopas continue to go with Alex and one holding midfielder when Pause returns?
M Dilly Duka (5) – Drew two fouls in dangerous areas just outside the box on two occasions early in the second half. Active in the first half as well. Productive before being subbed out in the 70th.
F Chris Rolfe (5) – Had a great look at goal in the 1oth minute but Kocic got enough on the shot to tip it over the crossbar for a corner kick. Replaced by Santos in the 68th and the offense sparked from there.
F Mike Magee (7) – Scored the first goal by capitalizing on a sloppy handle by Kocic and not only set up Paladini’s goal by faking the shot but he also drew the foul that set up the opportunity in the first place. Magee has played at an incredibly high level since joining the club and displayed all the reasons why Arena was reluctant to part with him. Leadership on the pitch is also impressive. The guy learned some things playing with the big boys in LA.
F Maicon Santos (6) – Continues to spark the offense as a substitute. Entered in the 64th and the Fire scored 4 minutes later. Good in combination as the Fire put their foot on the gas.
F Daniel Paladini (7) – Came in to the match in the 70th minute for Larentowicz and scored the game tying goal on an exceptional free kick. Also very good in controlling midfield as the Timbers were reeling and clinging in an attempt to hold onto the point.
F Sherjill MacDonald (6) – Entered the match at the same time as Paladini and showed some of the effort reminiscent of last year’s play. Had a hard shot blocked in the 76th for a corner kick and delivered a very good cross to Santos in stoppage time that provided a good look at goal.