A midfield trio in top goal-scoring form could be the key for Portland Timbers as they look to maintain their unbeaten run against Chicago Fire.
Portland have not lost in 11 matches in Major League Soccer (MLS), while they have won two of the past three games to reach third in the Western Conference standings.
The Timbers’ midfield trio of Rodney Wallace, Darlington Nagbe and Will Johnson have been crucial to Portland’s form through May, with all three scoring two goals in the past four MLS fixtures.
Portland defeated DC United in their last match, with Wallace’s thumping first-half strike putting Caleb Porter’s side on track for their fifth triumph in their streak of 11 games without a defeat, while Nagbe showed plenty of poise after the break to hold off his marker and slot the ball under the goalkeeper.
Heading into Saturday’s clash away to the Fire, Porter, the Timbers’ head coach, argued his side will learn a lot about themselves in their next four matches.
After they play Chicago, Portland will take on Western Conference-leaders FC Dallas, before facing fourth-placed Los Angeles Galaxy and Colorado Rapids, who sit fifth.
“We’ve talked about the fact that in the next four games, three of those games are against teams that are in the top five in the (Western) Conference,” Porter said.
“So it’s important that we get points in those games, otherwise we get passed by.
“And if we want to have any chance of passing Dallas and Salt Lake we have to keep getting points.
“We’ve kind of chunked the next four games to make sure we’re focused on that period.”
Portland will head into Saturday’s game on the back of an impressive US Open Cup victory last Wednesday, with the Oregon-based team having thumped Wilmington Hammerheads 5-1, while Chicago overcame Charlotte Eagles 2-0, before knocking off DC United by the same score-line in the MLS on Sunday.
There will be just four MLS matches this weekend with Real Salt Lake, who sit second in the Western Conference, hosting LA, while Seattle Sounders take on Vancouver Whitecaps and New England face DC United.