Dispatch: Chicago Fire vs. Portland Timbers
OTF’s Shane Nicholson is back with a report from Toyota Park on Chicago’s dramatic 2-2 comeback draw with Portland…
The Fire somehow found a way to drag a point out of Saturday’s Battle in Bridgeview with the well-hot Portland Timbers.
It wasn’t even so much a game of two halves as one of three thirds and a whole lot of good luck, as early on Portland crashed Sean Johnson’s goal often and with much ease, finding the woodwork three times in the first four minutes alone. With Will Johnson and Ben Zemanski bossing the middle of the park and effectively putting the insufferable and at times inexcusable Jeff Larentowicz in their back pockets, it looked to be a long night ahead.
As the pummeling continued, it became clear that Jalil Anibaba had a blind spot for Mike Harrington, as the Timbers left back was continually allowed time and space to send in cross after cross. Warning signs aplenty from that flank, and some we were quite lucky to duck.
When Diego Valeri collected a flick-on from Freddie Piquionne it seemed Anibaba and Bakary Soumare were more concerned with making sure he knew where the goal mouth was as opposed to perhaps stopping his run.
0-1 and Chicago was lucky to only be down that much at the half.
The first 30 minutes of the second half were going much the same. Overrun in midfield, overrun on the wings, embarrassing at the back at times, the Fire looked set to cave.
In the 58th, Piquionne took another meandering run down the right before cutting back for Zemanski, whose run was so blatantly telegraphed I’m guessing Larentowicz thought he was faking it. It’s the only reason to explain why no one felt the need to pick him up or even ponder closing him down.
0-2, sinking ship.
And then something happened: A real honest-to-god midfielder showed up on the pitch in a red shirt.
Yes, that man Danny Paladini — you know, our best and most consistent player this season who Klopas refuses to start because of whatever photos the Ginger has of him in compromising situations — came on and the game changed dramatically.
Funny what happens when you bring on a midfielder who can complete a pass.
Mike Magee’s third in three was off a nice through-ball from Alex and a fortunate miscommunication between Andrew Jean-Baptiste and his goalkeeper Milos Kocic, with neither Andrew nor Milos too keen on making a clearance. Kocic went down and with hands of pure stone knocked the ball directly into the path of Magee, who calmly took a touch past the car crash and slotted home. It was the 68th, and the game was back on.
Paladini continued to carve out space in the Portland midfield and the chances started coming for the Fire more and more. Sadly, most of them resulted in free kicks — which if the point of the game was to find new and creative ways to piss away, the Fire’d be quite good at it.
Thankfully, when the Dutch Waste of Space (aka Sherjill MacDonald) decided to do a bit of work for the first time this season, he found Magee in the channel, who drew a foul in the 82nd.
Then, once again in 2013, it was that man Paladini to the rescue — taking his cue from Magee to have a go and bending it around the wall and into the upper 90.
The Men in Red had it back 2-2 and were all riding the back of number 11.
It’s a point saved for the Fire for sure, and two lost for a team that’s riding a 12-game hot streak. Not a bad result from where Chicago was in the first 60 minutes. But it again begs the question as to why Klopas simply refuses to play his best players.
Alex and Paladini were outstanding in the middle of the park together, and Maicon Santos was dangerous from wide right positions once he came on. These are three players who have shown over and over that they deserve to be among the names on the team sheet every week.
But it was a result, an entertaining match, and good thoughts all around. And now, if you’ll excuse me for leaving this a bit short, I’ve got to drop some Timbers folks off at O’Hare.