Portland Timbers v Chicago Fire, Thursday August 14, 04:00
Time is running out for teams on the fringes of the MLS play-offs to make the top seven and this week’s MLS action sees two contenders with top seven ambitions meet on the west coast.
Portland Dominate Head to Head
Chicago are founder members of MLS, but Portland joined the league in 2011, so there have been only nine competitive meetings between these sides, but the Timbers have had the better of this fixture so far. They won their first three encounters with Chicago and won again in 2015. In fact, the Fire have never toppled the Timbers, though they have managed to draw five times.
After leading Portland to the MLS Cup Final last season in his first campaign, head coach Giovanni Savarese had a tough start to 2019 as his side picked up just one point from their first six games. But that poor record could be partly attributed to the team being forced to play their first twelve matches away from home as work continued on the redevelopment of home ground Providence Park.
Since returning home, their form has picked up. A run of one defeat in seven has enabled them to climb the table, and they go into this game two points outside the play-offs with two games in hand.
Chicago have made the play-offs once in the last six seasons, and the change in format, which sees the qualification places reduced to seven from eight has not done them any favours. But they are still in touch in the East, just three points off the top seven, and after a campaign plagued by frustrating draws, there are signs of a potential revival. A creditable draw with DC United was followed by victories in Houston and at home to Montreal and that suggests they may yet have play-off potential.
Portland go into this game as 4/5 favourites, which is not a huge surprise, while the draw is 3/1. Given their recent upturn, some punters may be tempted by the 15/4 on offer for a Chicago win, but it is worth noting that the Fire have more significant games against East rivals Philadelphia, New England and Columbus coming up after this gruelling trip to the west coast.