Gaston Fernandez saved his new club Portland Timbers for the second time in two games, scoring a late equaliser again in the MLS on Sunday.
Fernandez’s stoppage-time header in the opening weekend of league action had given Portland a 1-1 draw against Philadelphia Union and the 30-year-old Argentine forward endeared himself even further to Timbers fans on Sunday when he tapped in to ensure the hosts drew with Chicago Fire.
Chicago had taken the lead in Portland with a 19th-minute penalty from Jeff Larentowicz but Fernandez claimed a share of the points for the Timbers, converting from close range after visiting goalkeeper Sean Johnson could only parry Darlington Nagbe’s initial shot.
The Timbers had almost two-thirds of possession at Providence Park and took 21 shots to the Fire’s 14 but failed to convert their dominance into a home victory for the second straight game.
Chicago started strongly with Brazilian midfielder Alex forcing Timbers goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts into a fine save from long range.
Soon after, Portland defender Norberto Paparatto barged into the back of Quincy Amarikwa, conceding a spot kick which Larentowicz converted.
The Fire were good value for their lead but had to survive a late first-half flurry with Johnson making a smart save from Portland skipper Will Johnson.
As the second half progressed, Portland started to gain more control with Chicago defending deeper and more desperately as the minutes passed.
In the 71st minute, Will Johnson failed to put the ball in the net with Fire custodian Sean Johnson stranded off his line after a mix-up between Chicago’s gloveman and defender Bakary Soumare, but it was 1-1 soon after as Nagbe’s powerful strike was parried into Fernandez’s path and the former Estudiantes forward made no mistake.
With four minutes remaining, Chicago were reduced to 10 men when Patrick Nyarko copped a second yellow card for a late challenge on Nagbe but the Fire had the best chance to snatch a late winner with Ricketts making a point-blank save from Soumare’s header in stoppage time.
Having drawn their opening two games, Portland sit sixth in the Western Conference table, two points adrift of Vancouver Whitecaps, who lead the standings.
Vancouver needed a late equaliser of their own to claim a 1-1 draw at Chivas USA on Sunday with Kekuta Manneh scoring in the 81st minute to cancel out Erick Torres’ first-half opener for the home side.