The Portland Timbers put together a line-up of starters, reserves, and trialists for today's 1-1 preseason draw against a similarly constructed Chicago Fire side. In a much more open match than Sunday's slug-fest against the Vancouver Whitecaps, the Timbers were able to take a look at a number of their fringe players with the season set to kick off in just over a week.
In the early going the Timbers got off to a slow start, sitting back for much of the half and breaking up attacks from the Fire, but having significant difficult mounting attacks of their own.
However, the Timbers soon began to assert themselves on the match after absorbing the Fire's early pressure. A long string of Timbers moves on the edge of the Fire box, driven largely by the contributions of newcomer Dairon Asprilla, saw the team finally open the scoring off a Michael Nanchoff free kick.
In the 22', Gaston Fernandez drove at the Fire box, eventually getting hauled down just outside the area and earning a free kick out wide on the Timbers right flank, just inside the range of Nanchoff's left boot.
With a three man wall in front of him, Nanchoff elected to go with power, hammering a shot on goal from spot kick. Taking a slight deflection on the way, the ball curled up and over the shoulder of Sean Johnson in goal, tucking neatly into the corner of the net and putting the Timbers up 1-0.
Despite going a goal down, the Fire hauled themselves back into the match late in the first half. Pressing forward with the ball, the Fire pinned the Timbers back with a series of forays into the Timbers' half. Swinging in crosses, free kicks, and corners, the Fire kept constant pressure on the Timbers to close out the half.
Finally, the Fire were able to crack the Timbers' defensive shell in the 44', sending one final corner kick into the box. A hard hit ball into the box looked like it was about to be cleared, only to be wiffed on by the first Timbers defender and find Norberto Paparatto alone in the center of the box. Surprised, Paparatto attempted to put a head on the ball to clear, but instead could only slightly re-direct the ball, sending it skipping off the turf and just inside the far post to give the Fire the equalizer.
With the score now knotted up at 1-1 going into the second half, the Timbers stuck to their game plan, bringing Darlington Nagbe and Fanendo Adi in for the two first choice player's first pairing as a strike force.
With the big guns on the pitch, the Timbers once again asserted themselves on the match, pressing forward and creating numerous chances for themselves, but still failing to find the go-ahead goal.
Keeping the pressure on for much of the half, even as Chicago brought on their own starting forwards, the Timbers could have won it in the final minute of the match as Darlington Nagbe received the ball from trialist Rundell Wincester, touched it around his man, and took a left-footed shot on goal. Although it had the accuracy, Nagbe's shot lacked the power to beat Johnson, who laid out across his goal to make the save and preserve the tie.
Following on the heels of Sunday's contentious match, today's draw was a low-key affair, featuring only one ejection as George Fochive picked up a pair of yellow cards and one injury as Michael Nanchoff was forced out of the match with a pulled hip flexor.
The Timbers will finish up the Simple Invitational with a 5:00 pm match this Saturday against Bob Bradley's Stabaek.