The Portland Timbers spoke all week about needing three points against a struggling Chicago Fire side. They came away with zero on Wednesday, falling 2-1 at Providence Park due to inconsistent play at the back and indecision in the final third.
The Timbers (5-7-7, 21 points) fall out of the MLS Cup playoff picture with the loss. They will have just three days to recuperate before a home match against NYCFC on Saturday.
The opening 10 minutes were brutal for the Timbers, featuring myriad defensive miscues including one major error at the back that led to a Chicago goal.
The Fire (4-6-8, 20 points) went up 1-0 in the eighth minute as Fabian Herbers finished off a strong run of combining play, one that went virtually unimpeded by Portland’s back line. Communication was lacking, to say the least.
Portland eventually settled into the half, though, and had the lion’s share of chances.
Evander nearly scored in the 12th minute on a feed from Santiago Moreno, scooting one to the keeper’s left that forced a fingertip save. In the 14th minute, Franck Boli made a strong move into the box and beat the keeper on the right-footed strike, but a last-ditch effort by Alonso Aceves cleared the ball off the line.
In the 19th, it appeared Evander had earned a penalty after being dispossessed on a chopping tackle in the box. There was no whistle, and the call on the field did not go to the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), much to the chagrin of Timbers fans.
Moreno kept up his strong play with a shot on goal in the 21st minute, played ahead on the long ball by Portland goalkeeper David Bingham.
In the 26th minute, Portland pulled even on a goal by Boli. Moreno fed the ball ahead after a nice touch to gain control in the midfield, and Boli finished clinically to tie things up, 1-1.
Chicago nearly retook the lead in the 30th minute as Jairo Torres streaked behind the Timbers back line, but he blew the finish and kicked it straight at Bingham.
Portland kept up its offensive pressure, and it went into the half with momentum after a shaky start.
The Fire came out competitive in the second half, and Torres had a near-miss at the far post in the 52nd minute thanks to a scooping save in close quarters by Bingham.
In the 56th minute, with frustrations boiling over with the official, Dairon Asprilla received a yellow card for dissent.
Moreno played a perfect ball over the top to Boli in the 62nd minute, but Boli did not appear ready for it and wasn’t able to get a shot off.
One of the most frustrating plays of the night for the Timbers came in the 69th minute, as Evander carried the ball in a 4-on-2 situation but chewed it up in his own feet and turned it over.
Two minutes later, he was replaced by Sebastián Blanco. The Timbers also brought on Jaroslaw Niezgoda for Boli, Marvin Loría for Asprilla, and later Nathan Fogaça for Moreno.
Chicago took the lead in the 83rd minute on a header by veteran forward Kei Kamara, another breakdown at the back for Portland that ended in disaster.
A straight red card was initially issued to Chicago’s Rafael Czichos in the 88th minute, but after VAR review, it was determined to be a clean tackle. No card, no foul, no denial of a goal-scoring opportunity as Niezgoda took a tumble.
Portland had a corner in stoppage time and made several efforts to find the tying goal including an attempted bicycle kick at the end by Fogaça, but it was all for naught as the Timbers suffered the home loss.
Next up: Portland hosts NYCFC on Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Providence Park with a live stream available on the Apple TV app with a subscription to MLS Season Pass.