Timbers play to 1-1 draw with Fire on late goal
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Gaston Fernandez is making the most of his new job with the Portland Timbers.
The Argentine forward came to the Timbers earlier this year and already he has two goals – both equalizers – in Portland’s first two games of the season.
On Sunday, it was a goal that rebounded off Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson in the 79th minute to pull the Timbers to a 1-1 draw with the Fire.
”He’s one of these guys who gets himself into great spots,” Portland coach Caleb Porter said. ”He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s smart.”
Fernandez’s goal in stoppage time gave the Timbers a 1-1 tie in the opener against Philadelphia last weekend.
”It’s always good to be able to score,” Fernandez said through a translator following Sunday’s draw. ”It feels good.”
Jeff Larentowicz scored on a penalty kick in the 19th minute for the Fire, who shook up their starting lineup after a 3-2 loss to Chivas in their opener.
Portland dominated possession at 64 percent, but several good chances at goals just missed. Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson was credited with six saves.
”All in all, (I’m) happy with the performance of the team,” Fire coach Frank Yallop said. ”Obviously, we’re not overly pleased we didn’t get three points, but it’s a start for us and our building for the future.”
Yallop made changes by starting midfielder Benji Joya and forwards Harrison Shipp and Quincy Amarikwa. Shipp became the first Fire Homegrown Player to play in an MLS first-team match.
Forward Orr Barouch remains out of Chicago’s lineup as he continues to recover from a broken foot suffered while playing in Israel.
For Portland, Futty Danso started in place of Pa Modou Kah, who is still nursing injuries from the opener.
Both teams had opportunities early.
Fire midfielder Alex got an open shot in the 9th minute, but goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts’ tipped it wide with a diving save. Will Johnson’s free kick for Portland in the 12th minute was low and well off.
The Fire got their first lead of the season when Amarikwa drew the foul in the penalty area and Larentowicz’s penalty kick got past Ricketts in the 19th minute.
On a free kick in the 39th minute, Johnson’s bicycle kick went high and wide and the Fire went into the break with a 1-0 lead.
The Timbers had what looked like a sure chance in the 56th minute, but Maximilliano Urruti slipped on his charge toward Sean Johnson in the Chicago goal.
The Timbers got a scare a minute later when Ricketts went down after getting bumped by Amarikwa. Even after he got up and returned to the goal, he appeared shaken up. Ricketts finished with three saves.
”These are valuable points, even at this point of the year,” Portland’s Will Johnson said. ”And we feel like we left two points out there.”
Will Johnson said the Timbers are well aware that they’re being disadvantaged by slow starts. Both of Fernandez’ goals had come after Portland had already conceded one.
”It’s something we need to get right quickly,” he said.
Fire reserve Patrick Nyarko was sent off after a pair of yellow cards in the space of 13 minutes late in the game.
Portland had won three previous meetings with the Fire, but last year the two teams played to a 2-all draw in Chicago. The Timbers were 2-0 against the Fire in Portland.