Portland Timbers

Fire endure late onslaught to hold on for a draw in Portland

Fire endure late onslaught to hold on for a draw in Portland

The Chicago Fire may be looking forward to the upcoming Gold Cup break.

The Fire played to a 2-2 draw in Portland on Wednesday without Dax McCarty and Bastian Schweinsteiger and lost Matt Polster to an injury in the first half. The Fire’s next game is July 22 at New York City FC while Major League Soccer takes a break for the group stage of the Gold Cup.

Schweinsteiger didn’t travel with the team after suffering a hip injury in the first half against Vancouver. Polster suffered a right leg injury just shy of 30 minutes into the game and was subbed out soon after. McCarty remains with the U.S. for the Gold Cup, which starts Saturday for the Americans.

Despite that, the Fire (11-3-5, 38 points) had a lead in the second half and still earned a road point against a playoff team.

Portland took the lead via a Fanendo Adi penalty kick after Juninho was called for a handball in the box. The Fire leveled things a few minutes later when Arturo Alvarez put in a cross from the right wing that wound up in the net.

Nemanja Nikolic was initially credited with the goal after crashing in front, but after replay, and Nikolic’s own admission, the goal was later changed to Alvarez. Nikolic still has a league-leading 16 goals, but was denied No. 17.

“I need to say the first goal is for Arturo,” Nikolic said in the halftime interview on CSN Chicago. “I don’t touch that ball. Anyway I think that my movement disturbed the goalkeeper.”

Brandon Vincent later gave the Fire the lead in the 61st minute. It was his first career MLS goal.

"I didn't know what to do with myself," Vincent said on the postgame interview on CSN Chicago. "I'm just glad it went in. It was a great ball from (Alvarez) and I was in a good place. Great team effort."


Sebastian Blanco got the tying goal for Portland nine minutes later. Portland pushed for the winning goal, racking up 24 shots and nine on target, but settled for the home draw.

The Fire are now tied on points with Toronto FC after the Reds won 3-1 at Orlando earlier on Wednesday.

Preview: Fire try to keep top MLS record at shorthanded Timbers on CSN

Preview: Fire try to keep top MLS record at shorthanded Timbers on CSN

The Chicago Fire are enduring a busy stretch of games and are missing key players, but they won’t get any sympathy from the Portland Timbers.

The Fire are without Dax McCarty, who is with the U.S. national team for the Gold Cup, David Accam is returning from international duty and Bastian Schweinsteiger is listed as questionable after leaving in the first half of Saturday’s 4-0 win against Vancouver. While all three are keys starters for the Fire, that list is significantly shorter than the players the Timbers will be missing.

The Timbers won’t be able to field a full 18-man matchday roster due to injuries and players away for the Gold Cup. Regular starters Diego Chara and Liam Ridgewell and depth players Jack Barmby and Amobi Okugo are out with injuries. Starting right back Alvas Powell and frequent attacking substitute Darren Mattocks are with Jamaica and starting central midfielder David Guzman is with Costa Rica for the Gold Cup.

The Fire will try to take advantage of Portland's lack of depth when they travel to Providence Park Wednesday night. The game will be live on CSN with an hour and a half of Fire coverage leading into the match. First up is a new episode of Chicago Fire Weekly at 8 p.m. and then Fire Pregame Live is on at 9 p.m.

It will be the Fire’s fourth game in 12 days and will cap off a busy stretch of seven games in 26 days for the host Timbers. Portland is winless in five straight, including a loss to Seattle in the U.S. Open Cup, but is 5-1-3 at home this season.

“Portland is going to be a great test for us and we have to keep the mentality that we have now and play the way we were playing so far,” Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said.

Portland’s depth is razor thin, but the Timbers will be able to send out almost all of the starting lineup that earned a quality road draw at Sporting Kansas City on Saturday.

The Fire took over the best record in MLS on Saturday, but have a tough stretch of games coming up to hold onto that spot. After Wednesday, the Fire will go on break for the Gold Cup group stage, but will return July 22 with a game at New York City FC and a trip to Sporting KC the next week.

“We just have to keep playing the way we’re playing with confidence,” midfielder Arturo Alvarez said. “It’s a lot of games left, but we got to keep doing the same thing.”

Chicago Fire at Portland Timbers

Where: Providence Park, Portland, Ore.

TV: CSN Chicago

When: Coverage starts at 9 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live (a new episode of Chicago Fire Weekly starts at 8 p.m.)

Records: Fire (11-3-4, 37 points), Timbers (7-7-5, 26 points)