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Storylines: Portland Timbers vs Chicago Fire

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It’s a short turn around this week as the Timbers welcome the Fire to Providence Park on Wednesday night.

MLS: U.S. Open Cup-Chicago Fire at FC Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The boys in green and gold come home getting a result on the road, and their reward? The hottest team in the league, the Chicago Fire. These team’s met in May of last year at Toyota Park in Chicago, the Timbers were able to pick up a point on the road. In the 1-1 draw with the Fire, Diego Valeri scored the Timbers lone goal.

Now it’s the Timbers turn to host.

The tale of two cities

One on the rise, the other not so much.

Right now the Portland Timbers and Chicago Fire pretty close to opposite. The Fire lead the east, and the Supporters Shield race as well. The Timbers are in a current 2-5-3 run of form and have fallen off since the hot start to the season. To compare, the Fire are in the middle of a 8-0-2 run. They’re averaging 2.06 points a match, they are also tied for the league lead with 35 goals scored (Atlanta also has 35). Though the Timbers do lead the Western Conference with 32.

It’s time for the Timbers to do some soul searching.

It’s no big secret we’ve fallen off since the fantastic start. Those were the days. What happens if have another string of bad results? It brings that red line even closer. I get we’re sitting pretty good in third place, but if you look at points per match - they’re playing more like a 5th place team.

Injuries have dictated the lineups most of the season, tying Caleb Porter’s hands, it’s also affected his ability of deploying subs. A win in against the best team in the league would be a great confidence boost. Something that they can build on, once the league comes back from break.

The Bastian Schweinsteiger effect

He’s started all 15 of the Fire matches since his arrival to the windy city and in those matches he’s gone 90 minutes 11 times. Even though he’s on the wrong side of thirty - he’s cranking out the work rate. His run of games might be in jeopardy come the Portland match, he injured his hip over the weekend against the Vancouver Whitecaps. But, according to Chicago’s manager Veljko Paunović, he should be ready to go Wednesday.

The team has visibly changed with the arrive of Basti and Dax McCarty (who’s out on Gold Cup duty). Schweinsteiger has two MLS goals to his name, though not everything he does shows up on a score sheet. He is no doubt the boss of the midfield and can hurt you many different ways. He makes those around him better, and thus the team does better. Look at the 2016 version of the Fire, dead last in the East and obviously they didn’t sniff the playoffs.

This year, the sky is truly the limit with this team. It’s your worst to first story. They have a legit shot at lifting the MLS Cup and possibly the Supporters Shield. That’s a tough ask, but I think this Chicago team is a serious player.

The Full 90

The Gold Cup break couldn’t come a better time for a Timbers side that could really use it. On the other side? The Transfer Window opens and we’ll have Larrys Mabiala to take one of the center-back spots slotting in next to Roy Miller.

How about our Captain? Well, it’s not looking good for Liam Ridgewell he just suffered a setback and might not be back until September, let that sink in. But for the rest of the squad, a two week break should be welcomed. Even if that glorious two weeks awaits you, the one thing you can’t do is get is senioritis.

Not with an important game in your house.

90 minutes. That’s not to much to ask for right?

It’s been the tail of the two halves as of late, and that has to come to an end. While Providence Park hasn’t been a ‘fortress’, they’ve played pretty well at home. PTFC is sitting on a nice 5-1-3 record at home. They need to play as a unit for the full 90 minutes, no more of this play good only to come out from halftime and lose the plot.