Gaston Fernandez grabbed his second goal in as many games to salvage a point for the Portland Timbers after their slow start against the Chicago Fire. It was a game of two halves for the Timbers as they struggled to deal with the Fire attack in the first half, but took the game to Chicago in the second.
The Fire opened the scoring in the 19', when a contentious penalty was called by replacement referee Marcos De Olivera. Quincy Amarikwa, who tormented the Timbers' defense all night until his injury and substitution in the 83', ran onto a long Chicago ball into the box. With Norberto Paparatto hanging on his back, Amarikwa checked his run, causing the the Timbers' defender to bowl him over. Despite the howls of protest from the Timbers Army, De Olivera pointed to the spot, where Jeff Larentowitz stepped up and ably converted to give the Fire an early lead.
The penalty was symptomatic of the Timbers' slow start to the match as the team once again dominated the possession, but were unable to turn chances into goals. Throughout the first 45', the Timbers moved the ball around the pitch well and tried to press the attack, but were often left exposed as they pushed forward thanks to Amarikwa and Chicago's creative midfielder, Alex, who provided a quick counter attack down the pitch.
After the half-time break, the Timbers returned to the pitch with considerably more energy and conviction, a fact that showed in their level of play. As the half wore on, the Timbers started to put together more of the quick, precise passes that they would prefer to be known for, finally culminating in the tying goal in the 79'.
The Timbers' goal started on the left flank as Diego Chara corralled the ball and, looking up, picked out Jack Jewsbury streaking down the far side of the pitch. Chara played a long, pinpoint pass to Jewsbury who brought the ball down and slipped it to Diego Valeri on the end line. From there the Timbers' maestro dropped the ball back through traffic to Darlington Nagbe in space at the top of the box. Nagbe, after a steadying touch, ripped a low shot that sent Sean Johnson sprawling to cover his far post. S.Johnson got a hand to the ball, but his block put it directly at the feet of Fernandez, inside the keeper's box. With the goal open in front of him, La Gata easily put the ball home.
Beyond the goal, the second half of the match was a flurry of near misses and blocked shots, with Donovan Ricketts stuffing a Bakary Soumare header at his near post at one end of the pitch and both Maximiliano Urruti and Fernandez coming inches from a Valeri cross that would have been a sure goal with only the slightest touch.
The Timbers had a gilded chance to grab a goal earlier in the match in the 71' when a mad scramble saw S.Johnson leave his box to clear a bouncing ball, waving off his defender in the process. The ball got away from him, however, and fell to the feet of Will Johnson. W.Johnson immediately pulled the trigger, sending a low, rolling shot toward the wide open net, only to have it go just wide of the post.