PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Timbers have produced some impressive results en route to their current team-record 11-game unbeaten streak. They might be tempted to take the upcoming challenge a little less seriously, considering their opponent is near the bottom of the standings.
So facing the eighth-place Chicago Fire at Toyota Park on Saturday (8:30 pm ET, watch FREE on MLS Stream of the Week) should be no big deal for a Timbers side with eyes on Supporters’ Shield hardware, right?
Not so fast.
“They’re like any team in this league, there’s no easy games,” Timbers defender Michael Harrington said. “It doesn’t really matter who you play, it’s going to be tough.”
Of course, the Timbers are saying the right things. But there’s a sense that they actually believe it: the Chicago Fire are a transformed team.
“They’re a lot better than their record, and they’re coming on,” Timbers head coach Caleb Porter said before the team departed Thursday for Chicago.
It paid immediate dividends in a 2-0 Fire victory last weekend over D.C. United, in which Magee opened his MLS account with Chicago on an 85th-minute goal and Soumare was solid on the backline in protecting the clean sheet.
“I think they’re a different team with Magee and Soumare in there,” Porter said.
According to Harrington, the new partnership of Magee and Chris Rolfe up top creates all kinds of problems for the Timbers. And if you give them space and time, they’ll hurt you.
“We have to manage his movement and make sure to get a body on him,” Harrington said of Magee. “They definitely have the pieces to be dangerous, and we’re aware of that.”
Coming away with three points from Chicago may not be along the same lines as doing the same at Sporting Park, but there’s no question that Porter believes it’s going to take a complete effort. Making it an even bigger challenge is the fact that the Timbers will be without two of their four leading goal scorers (Ryan Johnson and Rodney Wallace), goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts and starting center back Mamadou “Futty” Danso, who are all on international duty.
“I think our team has done a good job of that and realizing that if we go and implement our game we’re going to be successful no matter who we’re playing or where they are in the standings,” Harrington said.
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.