Defensive mistakes haunt "out of sorts" Chicago

 

The Chicago Fire thought they wouldn’t fall victim to the emotion and noise of JELD-WEN Field in the Portland Timbers’ home opener Thursday night.

They thought wrong.

The Fire were overwhelmed from the start. They looked disorganized in the back, struggling to hold any semblance of possession in the midfield, and failing to generate chances up top for much of their disappointing 4-2 loss to the Timbers.

WATCH HIGHLIGHTS: Portland 4, Chicago 2

“It’s obviously disappointing,” Fire captain Logan Pause told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “It’s disappointing, just tough, with a long road trip and we come away with nothing. We knew with it being their home opener that it was not going to be an easy night, and it definitely wasn’t.”

Second-year goalkeeper Sean Johnson, in particular, struggled with his positioning and ability to handle crosses in what might have been his worst performance in a Fire uniform.

The defense in front of him did not fare much better. Chicago’s back four—which played without injured starting center back Josip Mikulic for the second straight game—looked failed to mark Portland’s often streaking strikers.

The defensive lapses cost the Fire early and often, as Portland took advantage of some bad marking to take a 1-0 lead in the 29th minute before a weak corner kick clearance led to the Timbers’ second goal in the 38th.

“I just think at the end of the day we definitely were a little out of sorts,” Pause said. “I don’t know if that comes from us trying to push the game a little bit and we kind of opened ourselves up, but we’ll need to go back and look at some of the things defensively. Anytime you give up four goals, you’re not giving yourselves much of a chance.”

The Fire didn’t get the second half response they were looking for, either, falling behind 3-0 thanks to a 47th-minute goal from Timbers forward Jorge Perlaza, who also notched the opener.

“We knew that the first 15 to 20 minutes of the second half were going to be crucial,” Pause said. “We felt, even down 2-0, that we could still push and make a run for it, and then we go give up a goal at the start of the second half and now it’s an even a bigger hill to climb.”

Chicago didn’t give up, pulling within one goal after winger Marco Pappa’s wonder goal in the 81st minute. But another Portland goal in the 84th—this one following a mad goalmouth scramble—was the final nail in the coffin for the Fire, who ended their two-game Pacific Northwest road trip with zero points. They lost to the Seattle Sounders over the weekend.

“Our goal was to come out here [to Portland and Seattle] and get six points,” Pause said. “If not six at least come away with something. We felt like we did enough in Seattle to at least come away with something and tonight really just wasn’t our night.

“We’re going to hopefully learn from this, make the adjustments needed and move forward.”

Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at sam.h.stejskal@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.