PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Timbers came into Friday’s matchup with the Chicago Fire having found both goals and wins an elusive commodity of late.
They rediscovered both in front of a lively home crowd on a toasty night at Providence Park, turning to the familiar combination of Diego Valeri and Fanendo Adi for all they would need in a 1-0 victory over the reeling Fire.
The decisive moment came just three minutes after halftime when Valeri sent a scalding cross in front of goal from the right wing that took a deflection off Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson before the looming Adi poked it into the roof of the goal for his team-leading 10th goal of the season – Portland’s first shot on goal after a lackluster first half for both teams.
The victory – ending a four-game winless streak that included just two goals – moves Portland into fourth place in the Western Conference, pending the weekend’s games, with 36 points from 24 games.
The Fire, meanwhile, failed to build on momentum from last weekend’s decisive 2-0 win over West leading FC Dallas, falling for third time in their last five matches to remain in the cellar of the Eastern Conference with 24 points from 21 games.
The first half didn’t offer up much in the way threatening chances – the only two shots on goal coming from the Fire.
Portland did have two goals called off. The first came in the 15th minute when Rodney Wallace handled a ball over the top before chipping it past Johnson. An Adi goal three minutes later was then ruled to have been offside.
The best chance of the first half came via a head-scratching mistake from Timbers goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey in the 33rd minute. On a back pass from Nat Borchers, Kwarasey hit his outlet pass right to Fire forward Jason Johnson. But Kwarasey was able to scramble into position in time to save the one-on-one shot attempt.
The Timbers defense took over after Adi’s second-half goal, salting away their second clean sheet in as many games following last weekend’s scoreless draw with the San Jose Earthquakes. The Fire were limited to no shots on target after the break, their best look coming from a dangerous Shaun Maloney blast form the top of the box in the 86th minute that whistled just past the near post.
The Timbers nearly added a second goal in the 78th minute when a clever flick from Valeri set up second-half substitute Lucas Melano at the top of the box, but he pulled his right-footed curler just wide.
Melano, making just his third Timbers appearance since being inked to a Designated Player deal less than three weeks ago, would have two more dangerous looks that he couldn’t quite convert.
The Timbers return to action Saturday with a road match against Real Salt Lake. Chicago shift gears to US Open Cup action Wednesday for a semifinal match at the Philadelphia Union and return to league play next Sunday against the same team.
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.