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updated: 5/17/2012 9:21 PM

Can Fire keep momentum going against Timbers?

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  • Associated PressColorado Rapids' Caleb Folan, right, and Chicago Fire's Jalil Anibaba battle for the ball during the first half of an MLS soccer game on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2011, in Bridgeview, Ill.

      Associated PressColorado Rapids' Caleb Folan, right, and Chicago Fire's Jalil Anibaba battle for the ball during the first half of an MLS soccer game on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2011, in Bridgeview, Ill.

 
 

Just because Portland sits at the bottom of the Western Conference standings doesn't mean the Fire is taking the Timbers lightly.

"There's no easy game in this league," Pause said. "You know that, we all know that. We've got a big stretch with a lot of games, but I think our focus is on the weekend and Portland. I don't think their record is indicative of how they are as a team. Their home field is not an easy place to play. We opened that venue last year, so we know it all too well."

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The Fire (4-2-3, 15 points) struggled last year against the Timbers (2-5-3, 9 points), but it comes off a strong homestand against two of the top teams in the league, and it wants to keep moving up the Eastern Conference table.

"It'll be a good challenge for us to keep our momentum moving forward," said Fire center back Jalil Anibaba, a second-year pro out of the University of North Carolina.

It's been a season of nearly constant transition for Anibaba so far, and he will again be in the spotlight this weekend. He started the season paired with Cory Gibbs. After Gibbs injured his knee, Anibaba partnered with newcomer Arne Friedrich, then moved briefly to the right side. He's back in the middle again, but his partner is rookie Austin Berry until Friedrich returns from a hamstring strain suffered May 9 against Real Salt Lake.

Friedrich is expect back in 3-4 weeks.

"It's a big blow to our team and our back line, for sure. We're hoping that his recovery is very, very speedy and he comes back quickly," Anibaba said.

In the meantime the youngsters will be in the middle ahead of young goalkeeper Sean Johnson, with veterans Dan Gargan and Gonzalo Segares at fullback.

In Portland the Fire faces a club that hasn't scored in its last three matches.

"At the end of the day, it's about getting the job done, and I think we're capable," Anibaba said.

"It's good to have some young guys that are able to step in, even in difficult matches, and come through for you," Fire coach Frank Klopas said.

Follow Orrin on Twitter @orrinsoccer.

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