Fire keep optimism alive with 2-0 win over Portland

The Fire passed their biggest test of the preseason with a tactically sound victory over the MLS Cup Champion Portland Timbers. A switch from a formation that often featured five defenders in the first half, to the team's more conventional set-up in the second, allowed the team to stifle the home team while absorbing pressure and attack on counters. Goalkeeper Matt Lampson also contributed to the clean sheet with a handful of quality saves.

Right back Michael Harrington continued to contribute offensively. His cross in the 28th minute found the head of Arturo Alvarez, who directed the ball into the Portland net and give Chicago the lead. Seven minutes later, Gilberto collected the ball from an Alvarez free kick to give the Fire a two goal advantage, and cement the Simple Invitational tournament title.

A 5-0-1 finish this preseason with a plus-12 goal differential in six organized contests bodes well for a revamped Fire side that seems to have bought into Veljko Paunovic's style and enthusiasm. The statistics won't mean much in the grand scheme of things once the season gets started next Sunday, but the results have brought hope to a fan base in need of it.

"It feels great because we saw that we can (win)," said Paunovic after the match. "The players, the guys, they did it great and they deserved it. They worked hard and they were a team. They followed the game plan, and all this means a lot before we start the season with the home opener against New York."

Midfielder Matt Polster credited the new technical staff with instilling something that works. "Pauno has a very good style and system and it showed tonight. We took a lot of pressure, but we bent and didn't break. As long as we believe in the system and trust Pauno, I think we will be alright."

That's the hope.

Fire line-up

GK Lampson

DEF Harrington, Campbell, Kappelhof, Vincent

MID Polster, Meira (Cocis 72'), Alvarez (Calistri 72'), Goossens (Stephens 81'), Igboananike (Fernandez 88')

FWD Gilberto (Ramos 88')

Notes

  • The Fire currently have 22 signed players on the roster, with Lampson being the latest official signing. John Goossens and Arturo Alvarez are expected to sign deals upon the return to Chicago later today. 
  • MLS roster/budget compliance day is March 1. Teams rosters will need to conform to roster rules by Tuesday. The Fire are in good shape with budget space remaining, roster spots open, and allocation money in pocket.
  • The MLS transfer window does not close until May, so there is time to add the midfield and attacking support that is still needed. The Fire are still pursuing a central midfielder and an attacking midfielder/second forward. This could be a busy week. Stay tuned.

Filed under: 2016 Pre Season

Tags: Chicago Fire

Comments

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  • Thanks again for the write-up GR.

    I was impressed with the way the defense bent but did not break. Lampson was called on too often to put out fires in back, but he rose to the occasion in spite of his weird volleyball-bump clearance in the second half. I was also pleased with the way the team was able to stay cool under pressure - it's not an easy place to play, especially when the home team has just won the MLS Cup and seems to have the wind at their backs. That probably contributed to the recklessness of the Timbers that led to their first-half yellow cards - but again, the Fire didn't get knocked off their game. While the scoreline was great, that mental victory is more significant to me than the goals we bagged.

    So, was Accam still sick yesterday? I didn't hear any explanation for his absence.

    And I know that this was not really a competitive game (MLS, Open Cup, CCL), but was this still the first time we've beaten the Timbers? Or beaten them in Portland?

  • In reply to Modibo:

    Accam was sick last weekend. He's fine now. They kept him out of games in Portland as a precaution against playing on turf. He had some issues there last preseason.

  • In reply to Modibo:

    Defeating portland: 1st time for both.
    Next on the portlandia list seattle at Seahawks stadium. =)

    Then, I think we still haven't beat Vancouver at BC Stadium...

  • I definately think that that the tactics and the system of play makes up for a where talent doesn't. I'm not saying that as a criticism, but if you took this roster under yallop, you'd have 2015-redux. That said, I also like Paulo's flexibility of formations while maintaining identity.

    Here's hoping.

  • The John Goossens signing is now official. Two years with an option for a third.

  • I think the Goossens signing is a smart move. I am truly looking forward to seeing Gilberto and Accam playing a meaningful game with a well prepared lineup behind them. Gilberto is a workaholic. His goal was pure effort. It will be interesting to see him against NYCFC's backline. I think he will give them fits because he will spot Accam making darting runs toward goal. Could be really fun on Sunday!!!

  • Pope > Hauptman?

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