PORTLAND, Ore. – Gastón Fernández has made quite the impression just two games into his MLS career.
For the second straight week, the Portland Timbers’ new forward secured a point with a late equalizer after he hammered home a 79th-minute game-tying goal Saturday afternoon in a 1-1 draw with the Chicago Fire at Providence Park. Last week, Fernandez’s late heroics – on a stoppage-time header off a corner kick – gave Portland a 1-1 draw with the Philadelphia Union.
It was a game that played out in similar fashion as one week ago, with the Timbers dominating possession but their opposition creating several dangerous chances in early action – leading to a Jeff Larentowicz penalty kick that put the Fire up 1-0 in the 19th minute.
The Timbers opened the second half with seemingly endless chances to net the equalizer.
A Valeri blast in the 65th minute had to be saved by Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson. The rebound went to second-half substitute Steve Zakuani, but his two shots were both blocked.
Portland were gifted a chance in the 75th minute when a bungled clearance by Johnson and defender Bakary Soumare gave Timbers captain Will Johnson a free shot at an open goal, but his attempt rolled just inches wide.
The goal finally came when Nagbe teed up a rocket from the top of the area. It was saved by Johnson, but the rebound fell right to Fernandez for the easy tap in.
Chicago proved to be the aggressor in early action, finding space on the counter from the pace of attacking trio of striker Quincy Amarikwa and wingers Alex and Benji Joya, the US youth international receiving his first MLS start.
Alex nearly struck on a expertly played volley and spinning left-footed shot that required a diving finger-tip save by Timbers goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts.
The Fire’s early energy paid off in the 19th minute when Amarikwa beat Timbers center back Norberto Paparatto to a long ball in the box. Paparatto took down Amarikwa near the end line, enough for referee Marcos de Oliveira to point to the spot.
Larentowicz calmly fired home for the 1-0 lead as Ricketts guessed wrong on his dive, momentarily rewarding a Fire starting XI that was sporting four changes from the team that lost to Chivas USA last weekend.
The Timbers hit the road for the first time this season for their next matchup, a Saturday meeting with the Colorado Rapids. The Fire next make their home opener against the New York Red Bulls on Sunday.
Dan Itel covers the Portland Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.
Portland Timbers (0-0-2, 2pts) vs. Chicago Fire (0-1-1, 1pts)
March 16, 2014 – Providence Park (Portland, Ore.)
Goals by Half 1 2 F
Chicago Fire 1 0 1
Portland Timbers 0 1 1
CHI – Larentowicz (penalty kick), 19
POR – Fernández, 79
CHI – Soumare (Caution), 25
CHI – Palmer (Caution), 43
CHI – Amarikwa (Caution), 61
CHI – Nyarko (Caution), 73
CHI – Nyarko (Ejection, second yellow), 86
POR – Paparatto (Caution),90+1
Lineups & Stats
POR: GK Ricketts, D Jewsbury, D Paparatto, D Danso, D Harrington, M Chara, M Valeri (Piquionne, 86), M Johnson ©, F Nagbe, F Urruti (Zakuani, 61), F Fernández
Substitutes Not Used: GK Weber, D McKenzie, D Powell, M Nanchoff, M Zemanski
TOTAL SHOTS: 21 (Valeri, 6); SHOTS ON GOAL: 7 (Valeri, 3); FOULS: 16 (Chara, 4); OFFSIDES: 5; CORNER KICKS: 5; SAVES: 3
CHI: GK Johnson, D Palmer (Ianni, 67), D Segares, D Hurtado, D Soumare, M Larentowicz ©, M Watson, M Alex, M Shipp, M Joya (Nyarko, 64), F Amarikwa (Anangonó, 83)
Substitutes Not Used: GK Reynish, D Cochrane, M Pause, M Pineda
TOTAL SHOTS: 14 (Alex, 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 4 (Four players tied, 1); FOULS: 21 (Amarikwa, 4); OFFSIDES: 0; CORNER KICKS: 8; SAVES: 6
Referee: Marcos de Oliveira
Assistant Referees: Israel Fernandez, Brandon Major
4th Official: Bernard Hosu
Time of Game: 1:55
Weather: Cloudy, 61 degrees
All statistics contained in this box score are unofficial