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Chicago Fire vs. Portland Timbers Preview | MLS Soccer Free Pick

MLS Soccer Predictions – Chicago Fire vs Portland Timbers

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Onto the week’s MLS preview and prediction for the week.
Matchup: Chicago Fire vs. Portland Timbers
Date: Thursday, April 14, 2011
Time: Kick-off: 11:00 PM EST
Venue: JELD-WEN Field in Portland, OR.
TV: ESPN2
MLS Fixture Betting Lines and Odds from Bodog
Money Line: Chicago (+200) Portland (+130) Draw +210
Spread: Chicago Pick +140, Portland Pick -180
Over/Under: 2 ½
Click Here for MLS MATCHUP Stats —>

The expansion Portland Timbers are still winless in their inaugural season, but with a convincing win over Chivas USA in a U.S. Open Cup play-in match, seem to be headed in the right direction as they host the struggling Chicago Fire in their home opener on Thursday night.

After starting the season with a 1-1 draw against Dallas, Marco Pappa had a goal and an assist to lead Chicago to a 3-2 win over Sporting Kansas City in the Fire’s home opener. Chicago followed that up with an unimpressive performance in the Emerald City, losing to the Sounders 2-1, their last time out, despite Diego Chaves’ equalizer in the 8th minute.

The Uruguayan sensation became the first ever player in a Fire uniform to score a goal in his first three consecutive appearances of the season. He along with midfielder Pappa are a potent duo capable of launching an effective offensive attack with speed and accuracy.

However, a big concern for the Fire is in goal. The ball squirted past keeper Sean Johnson twice in Seattle from what were two easily stoppable goals. The Fire have now conceded five goals in just three MLS matches. But you can’t fault Johnson alone, as the Chicago back line has been more like the escort service. Boss Carlos de los Cobos started out with a four-man backline, yet that was not enough to withhold Seattle’s mediocre attack.

Meanwhile, Portland is coming into form as an expansion club, and seem to be maturing at a decent rate. As a team, John Spencer’s club continues to gel and take shape as each game passes.

Defensively, the Timbers seem already dialed in. After allowing five goals in their first two matches, they have conceded just a single goal in two regular season tilts.  Keeper Jake Gleeson has done everything but stand on his head, while the defensive duo of David Horst and Eric Brunner has helped cement the back four.

Now all the Timbers need is the strike force to pick up.  With just two goals scored in three matches, Kenny Cooper will eventually have to live up to his expectations if Portland wants to make a run at competing from the MLS Cup in its first year as a Major League Soccer side.

The Fire are 9-3-4 against MLS expansion sides in their first year, and have outscored those clubs by 27 goals, while conceding only 13.

It would be a momentous day in Portland if the side was to pull out a victory, but the Fire will be looking to rain on their parade. However, if Chicago wants to win this one, they will have to tighten up their defense against a Portland team that is struggling to find the back of the net.

Matt’s Free Prediction: Portland– With over a week off to rest, and the buzz that will surround their home pitch, the Timbers have everything they need to snatch their first regular season home opener. Chicago is coming off a hard-fought battle in Seattle over the weekend, and has likely been training all week leading up to the match in Portland. Expect the Timbers to get up early, coming away with a 2-1 win in this one.

Matt Martz is a sportswriter for the Bakersfield Californian, the Oregonian, Springfield Republican, Sacramento Bee, and the San Diego Union Tribune. I leave handicapping to the pros. Blessed is the gambler who expects nothing, for ye shall not be disappointed.

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