Fire-Timbers Preview

The Associated Press

A late goal let the Portland Timbers escape their season opener with a point and prevented the Chicago Fire from getting one in theirs.

The Timbers host the Fire on Sunday night in a matchup of teams seeking their first victory and trying to avoid another slow start to the season.

Both clubs were winless through four games in 2013, though Portland went on to finish with the best record in the Western Conference while Chicago missed the playoffs.

The Timbers (0-0-1) didn't get on the scoreboard in their opener until stoppage time last Saturday, but Gaston Fernandez's header off a corner kick in the 93rd minute was enough to earn a 1-1 draw with Philadelphia. Fernandez, who spent his career playing in Argentina before joining Portland this season, had both of the club's shots on goal.

"The thing I keep reminding myself, and I think it's important that people remember, is we still have new guys up there," coach Caleb Porter told the team's website about Portland's attackers. "We've got still some new pieces, some new moving parts. And we're getting that chemistry right still. It's going to take time."

Portland had one the league's toughest defenses a year ago with 33 goals allowed during the regular season, fewest in the Western Conference. In the opener, the Timbers allowed six shots on goal but only one got past goalie Donovan Ricketts.

Reigning MLS MVP Mike Magee would be a prime threat to score on the Timbers, but the Fire forward is expected to miss his second consecutive game because of a hamstring injury. Magee had 21 goals last season, including 15 in 22 games for Chicago after being acquired from Los Angeles, to become the first Fire player to win the league's top individual award.

"Magee is still nursing an injury at the moment... For him to start (versus Portland) I think would be tough," coach Frank Yallop said. "Mike just wants to help the team, and as coach I'm there to protect him. I do not want to put any player, let alone Mike, at risk of re-injuring and going backwards."

Chicago (0-1-0) dropped its season opener last Sunday, 3-2 to Chivas USA. Benji Joya and Quincy Amarikwa scored as the Fire rallied from an early 2-0 deficit, but they gave up the go-ahead goal in the 88th minute.

"Not particularly great for the start of the season, but there was a lot of things we took away from that game and we'll carry that over into Portland," Amarikwa said.

These teams' lone matchup last season marked the first time the Fire got a point from Portland, scoring a pair of second-half goals to earn a 2-2 tie in Chicago. The Timbers had won the previous three meetings by a combined 7-3 score.

Sunday's game will be the teams' only meeting of the season.

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