The Chicago Fire are well aware that JELD-WEN Field will be thunderously loud on Thursday night when they face Portland in the Timbers' home opener (11 pm ET; ESPN2/ESPN Deportes/MLSsoccer.com LIVE CHAT).
They also know that the game will be won on the field and not in the stands, however imposing the Timbers fans may be.
“They’re going to be real emotional and come out firing and wanting to get their first win and all,” Fire midfielder Patrick Nyarko told MLSsoccer.com. “We just need to keep our nerve, play our game, stick to the plan and impose our will. We have to do our best to shut the crowd down in the first few minutes.”
Nyarko is confident that his squad will do just that. The Fire faced a raucous atmosphere on Saturday in Seattle, and though they ended up losing the match 2-1, the team did a good job of limiting the crowd noise by responding to an early Sounders goal with one of their own just a minute later.
The guys – as we’ve shown in Seattle – can come back from adversity," Nyarko said. "I think we’re well-equipped. We talked about it together; the guys know what to do to not let the crowd get involved. That’s our only option: not to let the crowd get involved. I think we’ll take care of business. The guys are ready.”
If the Fire are to get a result, they’ll have to limit Portland forward Kenny Cooper. The former FC Dallas striker has a goal and an assist this season and has always tormented Chicago, scoring six times and notching one assist in seven career games against the Fire.
“I think that Cooper’s most important quality is when the ball’s in the air,” Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos said. “He’s a big guy, he has experience and we need to stay alert about this kind of situation. Against Seattle we had one mistake in the box and one cross and [Sounders forward] O'Brian White took advantage. Overall Cooper is better in the air [than White], so we need to stay alert and stay very close to him. We can’t lose the mark on this guy.”
“We need to add points,” he added. “Portland is in front of their fans for the first time, but if we play well I think the good results will come.”
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.