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Portland Timbers Outlast Chicago Fire in Grueling 1-0 Win

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Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Timbers ground out a 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire tonight thanks to a strong defensive showing and a classic striker's goal from forward Fanendo Adi midway through the match.

After another shaky start in the opening minutes, the Timbers seemed to impose their will on the match early, getting a series of chances on goal that would not fall by only the slimmest of margins.

On three different occasions, the Timbers put the ball in the back of the Fire net, only to have it pulled back as Adi, Rodney Wallace, and Darlington Nagbe were called offside. Once they found the measure of the Chicago offside trap, however, the Timbers used the speed of their front line to great advantage, working the ball both down the flanks and through the middle as Eric Gehrig and Jeff Larentowicz had difficulty keeping up with the Timbers' attackers.

However, despite the ramped up pressure as the first half progressed, the Timbers could not convert. With cross after cross blocked away by the compact Fire defense, it looked like the Timbers would need a stroke of luck to open the scoring.

That lucky chance would come before the half was up, but not for the Timbers. In the 33rd minute, Timbers' keeper Adam Kwarasey found himself with Fire striker Jason Johnson closing him down inside the Timbers' 18 yard box. Kwarasey, as he has done so many times this season, went for the simple pass out to his defenders only to see the outstretched boot of Johnson intercept the ball.

Johnson's first touch sent the ball skipping toward goal, a simple shot to put the Fire up 1-0, but it was not to be. Kwarasey, just a heartbeat after his blunder, dove across the face of goal and managed to grab and hold the ball just before it crossed the line.

As the game crossed over into the second half, however, the complexion of the match changed completely.

Just three minutes into the second half, in the 48th minute, the Timbers opened the scoring. Diego Valeri got on the end of a high ball dropping just inside the Fire box, bringing the ball down with a silky touch, cutting toward the end line, and sending it on goal where Adi was waiting. With Fire keeper Sean Johnson in front of him, Adi got a foot on the ball, knocking it cleanly into the back of the net.

From there the Fire came alive as they poured pressure forward, pinning the Timbers back in their half for most of the remainder of the match. As the Fire circled the Timbers' goal, however, the home side were consistently looking to break out and the introduction of new designated player Lucas Melano gave them the outlet that they needed to get the ball down the pitch.

Although his understanding with his teammates was certainly imperfect, Melano had plenty of opportunities to show off his blistering speed as he broke in behind the Fire back line over and over again, coming closest to opening his account in the 88th minute when he slammed a shot just wide of the near post and into the side netting.

Despite several chances from Melano, the Timbers were not able to find the insurance goal that they, and the fans in Providence Park, craved. However, the team's defense held strong and were able to weather the Fire's attacks until the final whistle.

The win moves the Timbers into fourth place in the Western Conference, although Sporting Kansas City will have the opportunity to move back up the ladder with a win tomorrow on the road against Toronto FC.

The Timbers head on the road for their next game as they take on Real Salt Lake next Saturday at 7:00 p.m. pacific.