BRIDGEVIEW Ill. – The Portland Timbers completed their season sweep of the Chicago Fire Saturday night, benefitting from a controversial penalty decision to earn a 1-0 victory at Toyota Park, the team’s first ever road win in MLS play.
Both teams started the match slowly and sloppily, struggling to slip anything through the crowded midfield in the game’s opening stages.
Portland figured out the clogged midfield first, creating a very good chance in the 16th minute. Forward Jorge Perlaza took off on an impressive run, weaving through the Fire defense and into the box before leaving the ball for unmarked midfielder Diego Chara. But the Designated Player couldn’t beat Fire goalie Sean Johnson, who came out quickly to smother Chara’s 12-yard effort.
The Timbers continued to press the attack after Chara’s chance, and their forays were rewarded in the 23rd minute with a penalty call from referee Elias Bazakos. Fire left back Gonzalo Segares was whistled for a foul on Perlaza near the top of the box. The call seemed harsh, and Chicago players were quick to voice their displeasure. Portland midfielder Jack Jewsbury made no mistake on the spot kick, however, firing his shot low and to the left past the diving goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
Portland’s goal seemed to wake up the Fire, who started to create some chances after falling behind. Midfielder Dominic Oduro got behind the Portland defense for a breakaway in the 34th minute, but his attempt to square the ball to fellow forward Cristian Nazarit, rather than to take a shot himself from the left side of the box, was cut off by the Timbers defense.
Chicago midfielder Marco Pappa had the next chance, slaloming through a couple of Timbers defenders on the left side before forcing goalie Troy Perkins into a fine save with a shot from the top of the penalty area.
The Fire kept pressing after Oduro and Pappa’s opportunities, creating a series of half-chances before hitting the post in the 44th. Pappa found defender Cory Gibbs unmarked at the near post on a corner kick. Gibbs snapped a good header towards the far post, but his attempt bounced off the inside of the goal frame and out of danger.
Chicago created a few half-chances to start the second half, but Portland had the first real opportunity. Perlaza beat the Fire’s offside trap in the 55th, running unmarked onto defender Rodney Wallace’s through ball before hitting a low left-footer just wide of the far post from 15 yards.
The Fire had another controversial decision go against them in the 63rd minute, when defender Yamith Cuesta was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Perlaza, putting the Fire down a man for the final 27 minutes.
Despite being down a man, Chicago continued to create chances. They hit the post a second time in the 71st minute, when substitute forward Orr Barouch smashed a Nazarit ball off the woodwork from the top right corner of the six-yard box.
The Fire had another good look in the 79th minute. Nazarit got on the end of a Pappa cross at the left post, nodding a close-range header just past Oduro’s outstretched foot and into the arms of a diving Perkins.
Chicago continued their desperate push for an equalizer in the final minutes, and came incredibly close to finding one in stoppage time. Pappa ran onto a cleared corner kick 25 yards out and ripped a low shot that looked destined for the back of the net, but Perkins came up huge, making a miraculous diving save to give Portland their first ever MLS road win.
Both teams play in friendly matches next week, with the Timbers taking on West Bromwich Albion at JELD-WEN Field on Wednesday and the Fire playing Manchester United at Soldier Field next Saturday.
POR -- Jack Jewsbury 5 (penalty kick) 25
Portland Timbers -- Troy Perkins, Jeremy Hall, Kevin Goldthwaite (David Horst 10), Mamadou Danso, Rodney Wallace, Kalif Alhassan, Jack Jewsbury, James Marcelin, Diego Chara, Jorge Perlaza (Kenny Cooper 64), Darlington Nagbe (Sal Zizzo 72).
Chicago Fire -- Sean Johnson, Jalil Anibaba, Yamith Cuesta, Cory Gibbs, Gonzalo Segares, Marco Pappa, Logan Pause (Bratislav Ristic 88), Daniel Paladini (Orr Barouch 46), Patrick Nyarko, Cristian Nazarit, Dominic Oduro.
CHI -- Cory Gibbs (caution; Dissent) 30
POR -- Jeremy Hall (caution; Tactical Foul) 49
CHI -- Yamith Cuesta (caution; Reckless Foul) 57
CHI -- Yamith Cuesta (ejection; Second Caution) 63
POR -- James Marcelin (caution; Tactical Foul) 70
POR -- Diego Chara (caution; Tactical Foul) 78
CHI -- Cristian Nazarit (caution; Tactical Foul) 85
Referee: Elias Bazakos
Referee's Assistants: George Gansner; Anthony Vasoli
4th Official: Terry Vaughn
Time of Game: 1:51