The Portland Timbers hope a return home will help them end a lengthy scoreless stretch.
Facing a Chicago Fire club dealing with key injuries along its back line could help the Timbers finally break through.
Portland looks to remain undefeated in this series Sunday night and prevent the Fire from posting their first three-game road winning streak in three seasons.
While the Timbers (2-5-3) feel good about recording clean sheets in three of their last four games - goalkeeper Troy Perkins hasn’t given up any goals in his past four appearances - there’s concern about the club getting shut out in three straight. Portland hasn’t scored in 321 minutes, dating to an own-goal by Sporting Kansas City in a 1-0 victory April 21.
No Timbers player has found the back of the net in 427 minutes - the last coming by Kris Boyd in a 3-1 loss at Los Angeles on April 14.
“Once we keep playing good defense, we’ll get something out of the game,” midfielder Lovel Palmer said after Portland had a season low-tying two shots on goal in Tuesday’s scoreless draw at Houston.
“Hopefully we can get it right in the attacking third and score a goal or two.”
The Timbers do have seven goals in five home games this year, compared to two goals in five road matches. Portland, in its second MLS season, has 30 goals at home and 10 on the road.
The franchise’s first victory came against the Fire, 4-2 at home April 14, 2011, and so did its first road win - 1-0 on July 16. Sunday marks the only match between these clubs in 2012.
Portland, which plays three of its next four at home, will face a Fire team that’s riding a season-best 2-0-1 run. Chicago (4-2-3), though, will open a stretch of three league matches in seven days without Arne Friedrich.
The German defender could be sidelined for up to four weeks after leaving in the first half of a 2-1 home win over Sporting KC last Saturday.
With Friedrich out, Fire coach Frank Klopas could call on Dan Gargan again.
Gargan replaced Friedrich in the last match after opening the game on the bench due to a foot injury. Gargan said he should be available Sunday.
“It’s something that has been bothering me, but it’s also something that’s gotten better,” he told MLS’ official website.
Offensively, the Fire are looking for continued production from forward Dominic Oduro, whose game-winner last Saturday was his first goal in four matches. Oduro leads the club with four goals.
“You just got to be ready for a player like that and always keep him in front of you,” Timbers midfielder Sal Zizzo said.
Portland captain Jack Jewsbury should be available after leaving Tuesday’s match following halftime with a pelvic sprain. His penalty kick past Johnson was the lone goal in the last meeting with Chicago.
Marco Pappa, second on the Fire with two goals, will make his 100th MLS appearance as Chicago tries to win three consecutive road games for the first time since May 16-28, 2009.