BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — The Chicago Fire succumbed to the rain, the noise and the pressure in their first meeting against Portland, playing one of their worst games of the season and falling to the Timbers 4-2 in the JELD-WEN Field opener on April 14.
While circumstances have certainly changed in Chicago since that game, the Fire still remember those dreadful 90 minutes in the Rose City and are determined to flip the script when the Timbers come to Toyota Park this Saturday (8:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
“That game stuck in our heads, and it still does,” Fire defender Cory Gibbs told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday. “Not only that game but the way we’ve been playing lately motivates us to want to come out and get three points. I think the fans deserve it, our people in the front office deserve it and as a team we deserve it.”
Getting a win at home is absolutely critical for Chicago. The seventh-place Fire haven’t won a league match since beating Columbus 1-0 on June 12 and need a victory against the Timbers to fight their way back into the playoff picture.
The Fire’s sense of urgency is only heightened by the fact that this Saturday’s match will be their last chance to move up in the league for two-and-a-half weeks. The club takes on Manchester United in a friendly next Saturday as part of the World Football Challenge and doesn’t return to MLS action until August 3.
“It’s massive,” Gibbs said. “It’s our last game before we go on a break and we’re playing at home and in front of a group of fans that I think, more than any other in the league, deserves wins.”
Not that it will be easy. Portland head coach John Spencer will undoubtedly have his team scratching and clawing for a result at on the road, especially after dropping last Sunday’s Cascadia-rivalry matchup at home to Seattle. The Fire will have to effectively deal with the Timbers’ dangerous attacking trio of Jorge Perlaza, Khalif Alhassan and Diego Chara if they’re going to get their long overdue victory.
“They have a dangerous team,” Gibbs said. “It’s going to be a hard game, they have a lot of weapons offensively and we have to stay tuned in and stay focused.”
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.