Following a short rest in fixtures due to the international break, the Fire headed to Portland to play the first in a series of three away games. The Fire got ahead just eight minutes in thanks to a goal from Fabian Herbers, but Franck Boli equalized for the Timbers in the 26th minute. It seemed that the game was either going to be another boring draw or that the Fire, in all likelihood, could capitulate on themselves and lose, but Kei Kamara had other plans as he scored his 144th MLS goal in the 83rd minute to get the Fire a huge 2-1 win.
*Players are listed in the order they lined up, followed by substitutes in the order they appeared
Chris Brady (8) – Playing his first game since he picked up a major head injury against Toronto FC on May 31st, Brady came back with a bang, most notably making a beautiful close-range save in the 12th minute. A few more saves here and there made it a routine match for the youngster as he was a major factor in a big victory for the Fire’s playoff push, with Brady continuing to impress this season.
Alonso Aceves (6.5) – Due to Miguel Ángel Navarro’s unavailability during international duty with Venezuela, Aceves started as the Fire’s left back. The Mexican defender hasn’t been nearly inspiring enough to nudge an in-form Miggy out of a starting spot, and this game did not do much improved to change that. In the 14th minute, Aceves made a goal-line clearance to keep the Fire ahead for the time being and was showing some promising signs of a good performance. Besides a few runs up into deeper areas of the field, Aceves never made an impression on this game, then being substituted for Jonathan Dean in the 69th minute.
Rafael Czichos (7.5) – Czichos started the match a bit sluggish but found his footing as the game grew on. He was caught flat-footed for Portland’s goal, but it was a large mixture of team calamities that saw the Timbers even get to that point. Czichos’ moment of the match for me was putting in a last-minute one-on-one slide tackle to stop an imminent goal for Portland in the 89th minute, getting sent off for it, and then having VAR overturn it all in one sequence. Overall another good showing for the German.
Mauricio Pineda (7) – Beginning the match as Czichos’ center-back partner despite the upcoming return of Carlos Terán, Mauri had a game of ups and downs, with none of those downs really affecting his performance too much. He had a few errors, but those were typically backed up by a hard tackle or two. Not the performance he was likely hoping for with the return of his biggest positional competitor nearing, but also not one to mull over for long.
Arnaud Souquet (7) – Never before for the Fire has Souquet been so active, notably being hailed by the announcers for having the most touches out of any player in the pitch at around the 70th-minute mark (although the announcers did not seem to be a reliable source of information in this game). Besides that, Souquet was solid defensively, and although his crosses never amounted to anything, his vision and positioning were always dangerous and consistent.
Federico Navarro (6.5) – For the first half of the match, nothing seemed to be clicking for Navarro as the Argentine was consistently losing possession and getting run past by the Timbers’ attack often. At the turn of halftime, however, Fede found some rhythm with much better passing and increased focus on trying to get the Fire transitioning quickly. Although his first half was poor, his last 45 was much improved.
Gastón Giménez (7.5) – Definitely more noticeable of a presence than his partner, Giménez was at times the sole care-taker for keeping possession or generating anything for the Fire’s attackers besides Brian Gutiérrez. Ironically compared to that last statement, Tonga play the initial looped through-ball for Gutiérrez to cross to Fabi Herbers for the opening goal. A few other glimmers of good service here and there, matched with a high defensive work rate, saw Giménez end the night on one of his better performances this season.
Fabian Herbers (7) – Starting as the Fire’s right-winger due to a shortage of fit wide-players, utility man Fabian Herbers decided he was feeling hungry again as he scored in the eighth minute to put the Fire up 1-0. Herbers played fairly well in his tenure on the pitch, but was substituted for Maren Haile-Selassie in the 78th minute to help spice up the Fire’s attack.
Brian Gutiérrez (9) – With Xherdan Shaqiri being on duty with Switzerland (where he notched a beautiful outside-of-the-foot assist), Gutiérrez started as the team’s attacking midfielder and was often the lone force of creativity. Guti got an assist just eight minutes in after picking up a through ball into the box and then cutting it back to Herbers to finish it. This was not the end of the homegrown’s night, though, as Guti came up big in the 82nd minute, curling a ball onto the head of Kei Kamara to get the Fire up 2-1. A wonderful performance from the youngster in a game that was stale for many of his attacking teammates.
Jairo Torres (6) – Similarly to Herbers, the lack of options on the wings forced Torres to play as the team’s left-winger. JT appeared dangerous in bursts throughout the game but ultimately made ended the night without any goal contributions, with his most notable action being Jairo shooting it right at David Bingham in a one-on-one from ten yards out. Jairo was subbed out in the 78th minute for Georgios Koutsias.
Kacper Przybyłko (5) – Surprisingly, starting over both Kei Kamara and Georgios Koutsias, Kacper did what he does best. Not much. Watching Przybyłko play is like watching paint dry. Besides some deep linkup play, Kacper didn’t provide anything memorable to the surprise of nobody, and was substituted for Kamara in the 69th minute.
Kei Kamara (7.5) – Coming on for Przybyłko in the 69th minute, Kei did something that his Polish counterpart simply cannot do. Be dangerous. Kamara physically held his ground against Portland’s defense and shielded off Zac McGraw to head home for his 144th goal in Major League Soccer in the 83rd minute.
Jonathan Dean (6.5) – Replacing Aceves in the 69th minute, Jonathan Dean got some much-needed game-time after missing six games due to a groin injury. Dean did what he was subbed on to do, and that was defend. The versatile full-back helped try and catch the Timbers out in transition and made sure that Portland could not generate much out on the right side of the pitch.
Georgios Koutsias (6.5) – Appearing in the 78th minute as a substitute for Torres, Koutsi tried to bring some energy into a tired offense and partially did with his pressing.
Maren Haile-Selassie (6.5) – Despite being listed as questionable, Maren came on as a substitute for Herbers, but due to his limited minutes, his impact was minimal.
Wyatt Omsberg (N/R) – Omsberg made a brief cameo in the closing minutes to help grind out the win. He replaced Gutiérrez as the Fire shifted to a back Fire to sustain Portland’s late pressure.
Frank Klopas (7) – Coming back to Major League Soccer by lining up the team in their traditional 4-2-3-1 was surprising for most fans (or just me), but it certainly was an appropriate change seeing how the Fire struggled to play in a five-back formation. Oh, look at that; the Fire won after they went back to a four-back formation. Sarcasm aside, this tactical change was much needed, and Klopas found a way to get the Fire their first Cascadian away win despite Miguel Navarro and Xherdan Shaqiri being out of the squad. The subs were subs, and Kei Kamara did what he was meant to do.