Portland Timbers Win First MLS Road Game at Chicago Fire

Joe OneillCorrespondent IIJuly 18, 2011

Captain Jack Jewsbury congratulates Jorge Perlazza on drawing a PK.
Captain Jack Jewsbury congratulates Jorge Perlazza on drawing a PK.Steve Dykes/Getty Images

A win is a win is a win.

The Portland Timbers managed their first road win of the year in a most unconvincing fashion in Chicago over the weekend. A 1-0 nail-biter won with Captain Jack Jewsbury's penalty kick.

The real hero of the match, however, was once again keeper Troy Perkins. He made three saves that would be considered remarkable in any league in the world—one of them might go down as the save of the year.

More on that later.

The soccer gods finally smiled on Portland, after nearly two months of having almost nothing but bad luck. The Timbers managed to lose games, and tie games that they should have won, in every conceivable fashion.

They gave up a goal on a set piece to Colorado in the last 10 seconds of the game that gave Colorado the win.

They committed a hand ball in the penalty area against New York in the last 20 seconds that resulted in a tie.

They gave up two leads in the second half against Seattle that resulted in a tough loss at home against their bitter rivals.

They played strong against Chivas and Kansas City, but still came away with a loss.

Finally, a bit of good fortune smiled on the Timbers.

The game came in spurts and fits, with Portland sometimes leading the attack, and sometimes sitting on their heels. In the 23rd minute a penalty was called on Jorge Perlazza at the top of the box, resulting in a PK and penalty on Gonzalo Segares. The call was probably harsh, but after what the Timbers have endured, it was deserved.

Jewsbury calmly struck in the left corner of the net.

Up 1-0, Portland then went into a defensive shell.

Chicago continually pressed the action and controlled possession for much of the remainder of the game.

Though Jorge Perlazza did have a break away and a one on one with the Chicago keeper that, honestly, should have resulted in a second goal.

Once again Perlazza showed a lack of composure and completely flubbed the shot.

Chicago had at least five excellent shots on goal. Two hit wood, and I have no idea how the second one didn't go in. It was an open shot for substitute Orr Barouch from about eight feet away and he shanked it.

Then, again, Portland received a fortunate result when Yamith Cuesta was sent off with a red card with 23 minutes to play.

You might think that up 1-0, with an extra player, that Portland would dominate play and press the action.

Think again.

Perkins had to make two world-class saves in the waning moments. One, a foot save off a deflection, might go off as save of the year.

By the end of the season, Perkins might be suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome with all the action he's getting.

As far as the team is concerned, the defense is still a mess. I am liking the 4-5-1 formation implemented by coach John Spencer, though.

James Marcelin is definitely an improvement in the middle of the field and cuts down a lot of set pieces and headers. Perlazza had a decent game, but not a great one. Sal Zizzo actually made some great runs into space and put some pressure on the Chicago defenders. Kalif Alhassan had a quiet game.

It's becoming obvious to most that the defense is the weakness on this team. The outside defenders, Wallace and Jeremy Hall, are just horrible. They are continually getting beat on runs. The midfielders need to do a much, much better job of tracking back and defending against runs. Chicago had a ton of chances from their mid-fielders and defenders pushing up.

But, a win is a win is a win. Great to see the lads break their seven-game winless streak and get their first win on the road.