PORTLAND, Ore. (Feb. 27, 2016) – The Chicago Fire capped their 2016 preseason preparations on a winning note Saturday night, defeating host and defending MLS Cup champion Portland Timbers FC, 2-0, at Providence Park. The Fire will leave Portland as the champion of the preseason Simple Invitational after earning three wins in three matches at the event.
Trialist Arturo Alvarez had a hand in both Chicago Fire goals, opening the game’s scoring in the 28th minute with a header from the run of play and, seven minutes later, providing an assist to Brazilian Designated Player Gilberto that helped give the Men In Red a two-goal advantage.
The Fire had their first half chance of the match in the 15th minute with a tight-angled shot from Gilberto. John Goossens played a ball on the ground toward the end line that Gilberto tracked down with the keeper off his line. Gilberto spun and whipped a bending shot toward the back post, but the angle proved too narrow as it soared wide of the frame.
Chicago goalkeeper Matt Lampson kept the sides level with a diving save in the 23rd minute. Lucas Melano’s cross found Diego Valeri in front of the net and the Argentinean nodded a shot low and on target. Lampson sprawled and parried the ball away from danger.
Alvarez gave the Fire the lead in the 28th minute. Michael Harrington served up a gourmet meal for Alvarez, whipping his left-footed cross from the right wing directly into the path of the winger’s well-timed run. Alvarez darted from the left into the center of the area and deftly headed his shot to the back post for the 1-0 advantage.
Despite the home side remaining dangerous in attack, Chicago managed to increase its lead after Kennedy Igboananike earned a free kick when fouled by Portland’s Jermaine Taylor. Alvarez served his in-swinging free kick into the path of Gilberto, who tucked away his off-balance finish through the legs of sliding Portland goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey.
Brandon Vincent nearly added to Chicago’s lead on a 51st-minute counter attack. Kennedy Igboananike laid a diagonal ball into the path of Vincent inside Portland’s box and the rookie struck it first time into the near corner, but the shot caromed off the intersection of post and crossbar and out for a goal kick.
The Fire had a golden chance to increase the margin in the 67th minute. After some scrappy defending in their own defensive third, Igboananike fed John Goossens a through ball, leading the midfielder into a one-on-one opportunity with Kwarasey. Goossens took the ball to the edge of the box and then launched his shot, but Kwarasey batted it out of the air with his palm to deny the Dutch trialist.
At the other end, Lampson came up with another highlight-reel save in the 75th minute, this time turning Adi away. Adi crushed a shot from inside the box that was heading toward the net, but Lampson dove and got his hand on the ball – enough to deflect it over the target and out for a corner.
The Fire continued to push for a third goal late in the match. Harrington took a ball with room to roam down the flank in the 79th minute. The veteran defender curved a pass on the ground to Joey Calistri and the homegrown player created space of his own with a touch against the grain into the right side of the box. Calistri’s initial attempt was blocked by Kwarasey at the near post and the second struck the goalkeeper again before striking side-netting to give Chicago a corner.
The win allowed the Fire to close an unbeaten slate of preseason competitions (5-0-1), including a trio of wins against fellow MLS sides. Veljko Paunovic’s side now returns to Chicago to begin final preparations for the March 6 MLS regular season opener vs. New York City FC, with kickoff set for 1 p.m. CT at Toyota Park. Tickets are available online at Chicago-Fire.com or by calling 888-MLS-FIRE. The match will be broadcast locally on Comcast SportsNet Chicago.
2016 Simple Invitational
Chicago Fire 2:0 Portland Timbers
Feb. 27, 2016 – Providence Park
CHI – Arturo Alvarez (Michael Harrington) 28
CHI – Gilberto (Arturo Alvarez) 35
CHI – Joao Meira (caution) 4
POR – Zarek Valentin (caution) 21
POR – Jermaine Taylor (caution) 34
POR – Diego Chara (caution) 56
CHI – Matt Polster (caution) 81
CHI – Kennedy Igboananike (caution) 82
Chicago Fire: Matt Lampson, Michael Harrington, Johan Kappelhof, Joao Meira (Razvan Cocis 72), Jonathan Campbell, Brandon Vincent, ^John Goossens (Michael Stephens 81), Matt Polster ©, ^Arturo Alvarez (Joey Calistri 72), Kennedy Igboananike (Collin Fernandez 88), Gilberto (Rodrigo Ramos 88).
Shots: 12; Shots On-Goal: 8; Saves: 9; Corners: 6; Fouls: 8
Portland Timbers: Adam Kwarasey, Alvas Powell, Nat Borchers, Jermaine Taylor, Zarek Valentin (Jack McInerney 75), Diego Chara, Diego Valeri ©, Darlington Nagbe, Dairon Asprilla (Ned Grabavoy 70), Lucas Melano, Fanendo Adi.
Shots: 20; Shots On-Goal: 9; Saves: 6; Corners: 16; Fouls: 17