Portland found the back of the net for the first time in over a month, as a pair of corner kicks made the difference in the Timbers’ home game against the Chicago Fire at Jeld-Wen Field on Sunday. Goals by Eric Brunner and an own goal by Logan Pause provided enough scoring to pace the Timbers past the Fire for the team’s first victory since Sporting KC came to the Rose City on April 21.
The goal-scoring drought ended at 446 minutes — having extended since April 14, when forward Kris Boyd was the last Timber to score in the 23rd minute of an eventual 3-1 loss against the Los Angeles Galaxy — when Brunner finished a play that started with a Franck Songo’o corner kick in the 19th minute. Hanyer Mosquera gained possession of the corner, drifting outside the goal box to head the long Songo’o floater back into the jumble of bodies grappling for position. Boyd, turning, slipped as he attempted a bicycle kick but managed to get a foot onto the ball. Finding himself in perfect position for the rebound, Brunner cleanly finished off the sequence past Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson. The crowd of 20,438 fans erupted as Timber Joey warmed up his long-neglected chainsaw.
Chicago answered in the 39th minute, capitalizing on Portland’s defensive lapses to even up the score before halftime. Pavel Pardo lined up a shot in the clear, but teammate Jalil Anibaba found himself unmarked in the flight path. Corralling the hard strike, Anibaba lined up a low shot into the left corner past Troy Perkins for the equalizer. The score remained deadlocked as the two sides left the pitch for halftime.
Returning for the second half, Portland kept up the offensive pressure with a series of chances that challenged Johnson and the Chicago defense. Ceding another corner kick in the 52nd minute, the Fire was burned by its loose defense when Sal Zizzo’s corner kick ricocheted off Pause and redirected it past Johnson into his own goal.
Both teams would have their chances in the final half hour, and referee Silviu Petrescu was forced to go to his pocket for the yellow card several times as the teams battled through the last fifteen minutes. In the end it would prove to be Pause’s own goal that decided the match. It was the second time this season that Portland won thanks to a gift from the opposition. Their victory over Sporting KC at home came after Chance Myers scored on his own keeper after failing to clear Boyd’s cross. “Maybe it wasn’t pretty at times,” Boyd said after the game, “but it was the three points that we needed.”
The victory gives Portland 12 points on the season (3-5-3), moving the Timbers out of the cellar of the Western Conference standings and past the defending MLS champion Los Angeles Galaxy into 8th place. “It’s a huge win,” Perkins said. “It puts us real close to being in the middle of the pack. A couple of more results go our way and we’re right in there.” The Timbers currently rest four points out of a top-five playoff position with a game in hand.
Chicago (4-3-3) returns home empty-handed to face FC Dallas at Toyota Park on Wednesday. The Timbers, with their scoring freeze thawed thanks to the Fire, turn their focus next to a mid-week friendly at home against Spanish side Valencia on Wednesday before their next MLS match against Vancouver at Jeld-Wen Field next Saturday.