Gaston Fernandez strikes again as Portland secures 1-1 draw with Chicago

Diego Valeri and Jeff Larentowicz tussle during the 1-1 draw between Portland and Chicago on Sunday afternoon.

Jaime Valdez

PORTLAND, Ore. 

Gaston Fernandez scored his second goal in as many weeks to lift Portland to a 1-1 draw with 10-man Chicago at Providence Park on Sunday afternoon.

Fernandez pounced on a rebound in the 79th minute to give the Timbers a share of the spoils. It proved a deserved riposte given the Timbers’ territorial dominance on the day, but the Fire – still without injured MLS MVP Mike Magee (hamstring) – departed with a point in hand for their defensive perseverance in the wake of Jeff Larentowicz’s opener from the spot after 19 minutes.

"We have to keep doing what we’re doing," Timbers coach Caleb Porter said. "We’re getting in good positions. We had more shots than we did in the last game. I thought we were even a bit better in that second half in this game than we were last game [the 1-1 draw with Philadelphia last weekend]. We had better quality chances."

Those strides did not occur at the outset, though. The two sides exchanged forays in the early stages before the active Quincy Amarikwa placed the visitors in a position to claim the lead inside the opening 20 minutes. Amarikwa moved astutely toward goal and worked his way inside Norberto Paparatto. The inevitable contact forced Amarikwa to ground and prompted referee Marcos de Oliveira to point to the spot. Fire captain Larentowicz assumed the duties from 12 yards and calmly slotted inside the right post when Ricketts dived the other way.

Portland enjoyed plenty of possession in the wake of Larentowicz’s opener without carving open Chicago’s resolute defensive shape. Will Johnson and Diego Valeri both went fairly close before the interval, but the home side went into the break wondering how to alter course to pose more of a threat in the final third.

Chicago midfielder Matt Watson forced Donovan Ricketts to tip over the bar from distance in the first real threat after the break, but the Timbers quickly responded. Michael Harrington played a clever diagonal to Valeri in space. Valeri angled his low feed through the goal area, but Fernandez and Maximiliano Urruti both failed to apply the final touch.

The home side continued in vain to find that precision in front of goal to translate its territorial dominance into the expected equalizer. Will Johnson should have pulled his side level after 71 minutes when Sean Johnson and Bakary Soumare failed to deal with a simple clearance on the edge of the penalty area, but W. Johnson pushed his effort just wide of the vacated goal.

"It was a tough one," Timbers midfielder Will Johnson said. "Nobody’s harder on me than me. I’ll struggle with that one for a few days. It’ll be tough for me to get through that, but I have 32 more games to get it right and get the fans back and my teammates back. I’ll score a few this year."

Salvation finally arrived for the home side after a typically neat piece of buildup play in the final quarter of an hour. Darlington Nagbe hit a low shot toward the far post. Sean Johnson made the initial stop, but he spilled the rebound toward the far post. Fernandez popped up and tucked home his second equalizer in as many weeks.

Chicago substitute Patrick Nyarko procured his second yellow card after 86 minutes for halting Nagbe on the break to pin the Fire back for the final few minutes. Jack Jewsbury nearly capitalized in short order when he hit another cross through the goal area, but it just eluded Fernandez in a promising position.

Bakary Soumare nearly snatched a winner in second-half stoppage time for the visitors, but Ricketts did ever so well to slide over to the back post and stop Soumare’s header with his chest to ensure both teams ended the match with a point.