Portland is no DC United. This will be a test for the revamped Fire side that should provide an indication of how much better the club is with Bakary Soumare and Mike Magee in the lineup. The Timbers have been one of the better teams in the West this season currently sitting in third place with a 5-1-7 mark. They haven't lost a game on the road yet (2-0-5) and they had a bye last weekend.
The Fire may be fortunate not to catch them at full strength however. Goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, midfielder Rodney Wallace, defender Futty Danso, and forward Ryan Johnson are usual first choice players who are unavailable due to international duty for their respective countries. Even with those absences Caleb Porter still has talented depth at his disposal that should make this a difficult match for Chicago. Their game is based on possession, rotation, and flexibility which makes a few missing pieces relatively easy to replace.
They've shifted from 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 looks to 4-4-2 formations and sometimes do it during matches with players rotating into different spots and in different looks. Either way, they like to get forward. Magee recently called them the "most difficult team in the league to play against" so that gives some indication of how teams must adjust on the fly to the variations Porter can throw onto the pitch. Chris Gluck, who runs a Timbers blog featuring statistical analysis and comparison chimed in on what Porter may do against the Fire.
Project Line Ups
Kocic; Harrington, Kah, Jean-Baptiste, Jewsbury; W. Johnson, Chara, Valeri; Alhassan, Piquionne, Nagbe
Johnson; Segares, Berry, Soumare, Anibaba; Larentowicz, Paladini, Duka, Nyarko; Rolfe, Magee
Portland's back line appears set but there could be come variations in the front six. Frederic Piquionne will likely be the center forward but Kalif Alhassan has missed some time in training this week which could result in some pieces being moved around. Ben Zemanski, Sal Zizzo, and Jose Valencia are all options to step in.
On the Fire's end, Logan Pause returned to training but doesn't appear ready to start. Klopas can opt to go more defensive with Portland looking to get numbers forward and slot Daniel Paladini in next to Jeff Larentowicz or he can opt to challenge in a more wide open game if he sticks to the 4-4-2 formation he's used in the last two matches. Alex could be in play for a central role if he chooses the latter. Joel Lindpere is out on international duty so it would seem that Dilly Duka is the logical choice on the left.
OUT: Arne Friedrich (hip tightness), Steven Kinney (R quad strain); QUESTIONABLE: Logan Pause (L groin tightness)
OUT: Bright Dike (ACL surgery), David Horst (R tibia plateau surgery), Brent Richards (L ACL surgery), Mikael Silvestre (ACL surgery); QUESTIONABLE: none
The Timbers lost their second match of the season to Montreal and haven't suffered a defeat since. The Fire seem to be picking up steam and confidence based on new acquisitions but the performance against a struggling DC team last weekend wasn't exactly stellar despite the win. They'll have to do be better in this game against Portland.
Klopas has been talking about trying to keep more possession (a stat the Fire need to improve on) against the Timbers so we could see the dual holding midfielder option with the Fire looking to counter.
Fire 1 Timbers 1
The rest of the league
New England 2 DC United 0
Real Salt Lake 1 Los Angeles 1
Seattle 2 Vancouver 1
season record 56/120
Pineda gets U-20 call
Victor Pineda has been named to the roster for the US u-20 Men's National Team that will participate in the FIFA Under-20 World Cup. The tournament will take place in Turkey from June 21 to July 13. The Nats first game against Spain in two weeks will be televised by ESPN2.
This should prove to be valuable experience for the Fire's first homegrown player. He should also start to figure into the regular 18 when he returns to the club after the tournament.
Soccer in Grant Park
Speaking of World Cups.
As the senior USMNT continues to play qualifiers for next year's big show the Chicago Park District is getting in on the action. US Soccer is hosting a viewing party for the June 18 game against Honduras and will display the game on a 19x33 high definition screen in the Petrillo Music Shell.
Now, that sounds like a good time.