Portland Timbers vs. Chicago Fire
2017 MLS Regular Season
Providence Park - Portland, Ore.
Wednesday, July 5 - 10:30 p.m. ET
WATCH: MLS LIVE
If the Portland Timbers hope that Nemanja Nikolic might be less effective on an artificial surface than on grass, they could be in for a big disappointment.
The Chicago Fire's high-scoring forward has only played once on turf since joining MLS – but he netted one of his 16 goals this season in that match, a 2-1 victory at New England on June 17.
There's not much else slowing Chicago's roll in 2017, either. The season's most dramatic turnaround team are on a 10-match unbeaten run in MLS play heading into Wednesday's meeting at Providence Park – and they've won eight of those 10 to go atop the Supporters' Shield standings.
That said, they'll be playing their fourth match across all competitions in 12 days, missing Dax McCarty to International duty (though McCarty and David Accam also missed Saturday's 4-0 rout of Vancouver with no ill effect for the Fire) and facing the prospect of Bastian Schweinsteiger sitting out with a hip injury.
Is this where the streak ends, or will the Fire torch the Timbers on their own turf?
On paper, going on the road and holding the Western Conference leaders to one shot on goal – without injured center back Liam Ridgewell – would seem a good omen for the Timbers' defense going into this one. The truth from Saturday's 1-1 away draw to Sporting Kansas City is a little more nuanced, though, although taking a point in a place that hasn't seen Kansas City lose an MLS match since May 2016 is no mean feat – especially as it took a gutsy penalty save to keep Portland from grabbing all three.
Sporting looked tired and disjointed in the first half and impatient in the second, with poor finishing of decent opportunities forcing the points split. Portland can't count on that against the Fire – though, to be fair, the Timbers also did a good job of applying pressure in the middle and defensive thirds as well on Saturday.
And if the Fire leave Diego Valeri unmarked from distance – well, let's put it this way: They'd better not.
- Suspended: None
- Int’l Duty: M David Guzman (Costa Rica, Gold Cup), M Darren Mattocks (Jamaica, Gold Cup), D Alvas Powell (Jamaica, Gold Cup)
- Injury Report: OUT – D Gbenga Orokoyo (Achilles' tear, out for the season); M Jack Barmby (ankle injury); D Liam Ridgewell (quad injury); D Amobi Okugo (knee injury); M Diego Chara (hamstring injury); QUESTIONABLE: M Darlington Nagbe (hamstring injury); D Chance Myers (hamstring injury)
Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1, right to left): Jake Gleeson – Marco Farfan, Lawrence Olum, Roy Miller, Vytautas Andriuskeviscius – Ben Zemanski, Darlington Nagbe – Dairon Asprilla, Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco – Fanendo Adi
Notes: The Timbers will be happy to be home, given their draw at Sporting KC last weekend extended their road winless streak to seven games. With their injuries and international absences, Portland will have only five field players on the bench, and only one of those, 18-year-old Marco Farfan, has played significant minutes this season.
For all the (deserved) hoopla about Nikolic's legit shot at breaking the single-season scoring record, there should be some attention paid to how stingy the Fire have been at the other end of the pitch.
If Matt Lampson and Jorge Rodrigo Bava were one guy, they'd be tied with Sporting's Tim Melia for the shutout lead with nine. That's how stingy. Chicago have conceded just twice in their last eight matches, with six clean sheets, and have given up just five goals over the course of their 10-match unbeaten streak. Lampson has made 10 starts, recording six shutouts and conceding just five goals over that span; Bava has three clean sheets in eight starts.
Schweinsteiger's absence from the defensive midfield – if he can't go on Wednesday – would be significant, but a team doesn't rack up that sort of defensive dominance on one man's efforts alone.
- Suspended: None
- Int’l Duty: Dax McCarty (US, Gold Cup)
- Injury Report: OUT – M John Goossens (right ankle surgery 3/4, out 5-6 months); GK Jorge Bava (left elbow tendinitis) F David Arshakyan (right ankle injury); QUESTIONABLE – M Bastian Schweinsteiger (right hip)
Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1, right to left): Matt Lampson – Matt Polster, Johan Kappelhof, Joao Meira, Brandon Vincent – Bastian Schweinsteiger, Juhninho – Luis Solignac, Michael de Leeuw, David Accam – Nemanja Nikolic
Notes: Nemanja Nikolic has scored a goal in four consecutive games for the Fire, while Michael de Leeuw's goal in the victory over Vancouver was his first of the season. Matt Polster had two assists vs. Vancouver – the first two-assist game of his career – and now has three assists in his last two games and a career-high four on the season.
- Overall: POR 4 wins (12 goals) … CHI 0 wins (7 goals) … Ties 3
- At POR: POR 3 wins (8 goals) … CHI 0 wins (4 goals) … Ties 1
- Referee: Robert Sibiga
- Senior Assistant Referee, near side: Jeremy Hanson
- Junior Assistant Referee, far side: Eric Weisbrod
- 4th Official: Alejandro Mariscal