Coming away with a result in Portland probably won't nullify the embarrassing first kick performance against Chivas USA but earning at least a point will provide some optimism heading into the home opener next week. Getting off to an 0-2 start may begin to mount pressure on players who must be anticipating the possible repurcussions of another slow start to open the season. During a conference call with reporters on Thursday afternoon Frank Yallop hinted that Benji Joya and Quincy Amarikwa could both be in the starting line up this coming Sunday and those changes become even more likely if Mike Magee and Chris Rolfe aren't available in Portland.
The back line will also need to perform much better than they did to open the season because indications are that this technical staff won't hesitate to make changes no matter what age, experience, or salary structure dictates. Bakary Soumare in particular will need to brush off a rough opening match to keep his place in the first eleven.
The Timbers scored on a late set piece to draw against Philadelphia in their opener but they weren't particularly good in the final third before then despite holding a 57-43 advantage in possession against the Union. Jeff Larentowicz may need help ahead of the defenders if the Fire hope to keep the Timbers' 4-3-3 from controlling the ball and the pace of the match. Going smaller with Quincy Amarikwa up top in place of Juan Luis Anangono may help as would Benji Joya in a central role. The Fire can't allow Portland to control the ball as often as Chivas USA did against them or they're in store for a long afternoon.
The Timbers were shaky themselves on set piece defending but the Fire weren't particularly good from dead ball situations either so losing a bigger target in Anangono may not factor into the equation when considering a starting line up on Sunday. Not allowing large amounts of possesion and making the home team defend will be the keys here.
Potential line ups
Fire: Johnson; Segares, Soumare, Hurtado, Palmer; Larentowicz, Joya; Duka, Alex, Nyarko; Amarikwa
top subs: Magee, Shipp
Timbers: Ricketts; Jewsbury, Paparatto, Danso, Harrington; Chara, Valeri, Johnson; Nagbe, Urruti, Fernandez
top subs: Zakuani, Alhassan
Fire - QUESTIONABLE: F Mike Magee (hip tightness), M Chris Rolfe (foot contusion)
Timbers - OUT: M Steven Evans (back surgery), M Rodney Wallace (L ACL surgery) - QUESTIONABLE: M Steve Zakuani (sports hernia surgery), M Kalif Alhassan (groin strain), D Pa Modou Kah (hamstring strain)
Marcos de Oliveira
The Fire have something to prove after a highly disappointing start to the season. They may be catching the Timbers at less than high gear if their first match is any indication. Given the Fire's struggles on turf and recent history in Portland, avoiding an 0-2 start will be a big challenge.
Timbers 2 Fire 1
The rest of the league
Don't go to the window with any of these. My start to the season was worse than the Fire's at 1-7.
Philadelphia 2 New England 1
New York 2 Colorado 0
Seattle 2 Toronto FC 1
Sporting KC 1 FC Dallas 0
Houston 2 Montreal 0
San Jose 1 Real Salt Lake 1
Chivas USA 1 Vancouver 2