PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Brian Fernandez scored twice and the Portland Timbers held off Chicago 3-2 on Wednesday night with the Fire playing a man down for 60 minutes of the match.
It was Portland’s second straight win at home to start a 10-game homestand. The Timbers (11-9-4) had a challenging 12-game road trip to open the season because of construction at Providence Park, but got a friendlier schedule down the stretch.
Portland took an early 2-0 lead but almost saw it slip away in the second half.
“This was the type of game that I think that if we do the things that we can do, there’s no reason why we have to suffer all the way until the end. We need to be better,” Portland coach Giovanni Savarese said.
Nemanja Nikolic and C.J. Sapong scored for the Fire (7-11-9), who did not play Bastian Schweinsteiger or Dax McCarty in the midweek match. Chicago was hampered in a comeback bid against the Timbers when Aleksandar Katai was ejected in the 30th minute.
“We didn’t have as good start, definitely. We conceded two goals too early and too innocently, but I think we fought back, the reaction was good. And after the other setback, after the red card, the second half we definitely fought fantastically, I thought the team spirit was amazing,” Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said.
The Fire defeated the Montreal Impact 3-2 at home on Saturday with Schweinsteiger scoring the winning goal.
Portland defeated Cascadia Cup rival Vancouver 3-1 on Saturday. The Timbers have dropped just one of their last eight matches.
Fernandez returned to the starting lineup after sitting out of the match against the Whitecaps because of soreness from two previous games earlier in the week.
He fell on the turf but was able to get the ball past fire goalkeeper David Ousted in the 21st minute. He scored again in the 88th minute for his team-leading 10th goal. Fernandez has played in 11 league matches for the Timbers since making his MLS debut on May 15.
In the 11th minute Ousted came out of his goal and collided with Marvin Loria. The ball bounced back to Jorge Moreira, who lofted it just over the head of defender Jonathan Bornstein and into the net.
Katai was handed a red card for elbowing Portland’s Julio Cascante in the face in the 30th minute after a video review.
A short time later, Portland’s Larrys Mabiala went down with what appeared to be a hamstring injury and he was replaced by Bill Tuiloma. Savarese confirmed the injury after the match, but did not know how serious it was.
Nikolic’s goal in the 74th minute came on a header that Cristhian Paredes tried to clear with Timbers goalkeeper Steve Clark down. The Fire added a goal in stoppage time on Sapong’s header off a cross from Przemyslaw Frankowski.
It was Sapong’s team-leading 10th goal of the season.
“We needed the points,” Savarese said. “Three points are very important, but today should have been different. We should have finished in a different fashion.”
The victory pulled the Timbers above the line and into the seventh spot in the Western Conference standings with 10 games to go.
Chicago, sitting at 10th in the East, has won just once on the road in league matches this year.