Portland downs Fire in memorable debut

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Portland downs Fire in memorable debut

Friday, April 15, 2011Posted: 1:25 AM

By Dieter Kurtenbach
CSNChicago.com

The city of Portland made a loud, emphatic entrance into Major League Soccer Thursday night. Two goals by Jorge Peralza and a rain-soaked, fevered pitch at Jeld-Wen Field lifted the Portland Timbers to a first victory in MLS, defeating the Chicago Fire 4-2.

Portland, spurred on by 18,827 fans, started the match with sustained pressure on the Fire defense and didnt let up for the next 90 minutes.

In the 10th minute, Timbers defender Steve Purdy struck a net-bound ball from 20 yards out, eliciting a spectacular save from Fire goaltender Sean Johnson, who dove to his left to deny. It was the only highlight of an otherwise forgettable night for the 21-year-old Fire goaltender.

Portlands star striker Kenny Cooper thought he headed in a goal off the ensuing corner, but referee Ricardo Salazar disallowed the first MLS home goal for the Timbers. Upon further review, Johnson was contacted on the play by Eric Brunner, but the ball appeared to have crossed the goal line before the foul. The call left the Portland team and crowd incensed. It was later explained that the ball was ruled out-of-bounds on the service. Like the phantom foul, video replay showed no indication of the ball being completely out of play.

In the 16th minute, a failed Gonzalo Segares tackle on Cooper furthered the fervor. Cooper took offense to the challenge, getting in the face of Segares after the play was whistled dead. The takedown earned Segares a yellow card.

The Timbers finally broke through in the 29th minute and the ovation was hardly subdued, despite, or perhaps because of, the earlier tease. Peralza, led by a well-placed through ball, beat Fire midfielder Logan Pause into the box and hesitated as Pause caught up with the play. Fooled by the stop, Pause ran past the Portland striker and Johnson went to the ground, allowing Peralza to easily slide it into the net. The goal was not only the first MLS goal for Portland, but it also gave the Timbers their first lead of the season.

The supporters of the Timbers, the Timbers Army, have a motto of No Pity. Up 2-0, the Timbers on the pitch upheld a similar motto.

Fire centerback Cory Gibbs earned a yellow card in the 37th minute for a hellacious tackle in the corner The resulting free kick was poorly cleared by the Fire defense, with the ball bouncing out past the 18-yard box. Thats where Timbers left-back Rodney Wallace put a cracking volley on the ball. The high-velocity shot deflected off Brunner and into the back right corner of the net for Portlands second goal of the game and Wallaces goal first of the season.

Down at halftime, Chicago brought on two new players to start the second half. Dominic Oduro replaced Gaston Puerari as an attacking forward, and Marko Maric came in for Michael Videira. Puerari, who had been so brilliant for the Fire in the seasons first three games, earning breakaways in each contest, was locked-down by the Timbers defense and was never given any space in which to create an attack.

The Timbers scored their third goal in the forty-seventh minute off another set piece with the same cast. Rodney Wallace took a lay-off from the Portland free-kick and put a poor, low cross into the chest of a falling Sean Johnson. The ball bounced off Johnsons chest and directly to the feet of an opportunistic Perlaza, who netted the gift for his second goal of the game.

The Fire made a late push, breaking up the clean sheet in the 66th minute, when Timbers defender Eric Brunner made a slide tackle to break up a Orr Barouch pass to Marco Pappa. Brunners clearance attempt found the back of the Portland net and quieted the crowd momentarily.

The own-goal was followed up by a curling left-footed strike by Pappa the 81st minute, and for a moment, the contest contained some late drama. But the Timbers struck back three minutes later, with Mamadou Danso netting his first goal of the season off a scrambled play along the Fire goal line. The goal came from a corner kick and a possible, but ultimately uncalled hand-ball by Cooper knocked the ball down. After several failed attempts at clearance by Fire defenders, Danso was able to put it past the line.

The loss leaves the Fire with only four points in four games and knocks the team down to the cellar of the Eastern Conference. Coming off consecutive losses, the road doesnt get any easier for Carlos de los Cobos team the Fire return to Toyota Park Sunday to take on Landon Donovan and the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Preview: Cubs-Giants Thursday on CSN+

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Preview: Cubs-Giants Thursday on CSN+

The Cubs take on the San Francisco Giants on Thursday, and you can catch all the action on CSN+. Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Thursday’s starting pitching matchup: Mike Montgomery vs. Jeff Samardzija

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the Cubs: All of the most recent news and notes.

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with Cubs Pulse.

Eloy Jimenez and Ian Happ headline Cubs prospects ticketed for Arizona Fall League

Eloy Jimenez and Ian Happ headline Cubs prospects ticketed for Arizona Fall League

Eloy Jimenez and Ian Happ will headline the group of seven Cubs prospects ticketed for the Arizona Fall League.

As the Cubs project their next wave of talent, Jimenez is thought to be close to untouchable after a breakout performance at the All-Star Futures Game and a Midwest League MVP season at Class-A South Bend.

Jimenez – who originally signed out of the Dominican Republic and got a $2.8 million bonus in the summer of 2013 – is hitting .331 with 14 homers and 81 RBI through 111 games with the South Bend Cubs. At the age of 19, the dynamic outfielder reminds the Cubs a little bit of Kris Bryant during his freshman year at the University of San Diego with that 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame and powerful right-handed swing.

Happ – the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft out of the University of Cincinnati – is a switch-hitter (.717 OPS at Double-A Tennessee) who has tried to increase his versatility by moving between second base and the outfield and become a Joe Maddon-type player.

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The Mesa Solar Sox roster unveiled Wednesday also includes Victor Caratini, an advanced defensive catcher who drew interest around the trade deadline and could be packaged in a bigger deal for pitching if Willson Contreras continues to develop behind the plate and Kyle Schwarber comes back healthy next season.

Cubs officials trying to build a pitching pipeline for Wrigley Field will also get a look at right-handers James Farris, Ryan McNeil, Stephen Perakslis and Duane Underwood Jr. in the showcase league.

Jason Hammel helps Cubs sweep Pirates out of Wrigley

Jason Hammel helps Cubs sweep Pirates out of Wrigley

Another quick hook left Jason Hammel seething over the weekend at Dodger Stadium, bringing back uncomfortable questions about how much manager Joe Maddon trusts him, and whether or not the Cubs would find a spot for him on a playoff roster.  

Four days later, Pearl Jam’s “Alive” blasted from the Wrigley Field sound system as Hammel warmed up before facing the Pittsburgh Pirates – with no guarantees about October or next season.     

Hammel responded with another quality start in Wednesday’s 6-5 win, completing a three-game sweep that left the Pirates staggering in the wild-card race and helped the Cubs cut their magic number to win the division down to 16.   

Outside of a few extreme lows that distorted the perception of his overall season – 10-run outings against the New York Mets and at Coors Field and the 39 pitches he called a side day at Dodger Stadium – Hammel has been an integral part of the elite rotation that pushed the Cubs to an 85-47 record and such a huge lead in the National League Central (now 15 games up on the St. Louis Cardinals). 

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Hammel (14-7, 3.14 ERA) shut down the Pirates for six innings, allowing only one run on three hits and showing the confidence that made him an All-Star-level performer in the first half. With the bases loaded, Hammel screamed and flexed his muscles after striking out Andrew McCutchen swinging to end the fifth inning.       

On a night when the crowd chanted “MVP,” Kris Bryant launched his 36th homer (in the first inning off Ryan Vogelsong) and made Gold Glove-caliber plays at third base to back Hammel, diving to his left to catch a Sean Rodriguez line drive and prevent a run at the end of the second inning, and leaning over the wall and into the stands to catch a Josh Bell pop-up at the beginning of the fourth inning.        

This could become the next awkward conversation: If John Lackey (shoulder) returns to full strength – and the rest of the rotation doesn’t experience any setbacks down the stretch – what are the chances of Hammel making a playoff start?

“Stay healthy and we’ll see what happens,” Maddon said. “I don’t bet on the come. Let’s get to the playoffs first, make sure everybody’s well, and at that point then you look at the group you have. And then maybe at that point you look at the group you may be playing. And then you try to formulate the best plan of attack from your personnel versus their personnel. 

“I’ve not even thought about a playoff moment once.”