Chicago Fire earns point in draw with Portland

 
 
Updated 3/31/2018 8:33 PM
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  • Portland Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri, left, battles for the ball with Chicago Fire midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, right, during the first half of an MLS soccer match, Saturday, March 31, 2018, in Bridgeview, Ill.

    Portland Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri, left, battles for the ball with Chicago Fire midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, right, during the first half of an MLS soccer match, Saturday, March 31, 2018, in Bridgeview, Ill.

The Chicago Fire's first point of the season left Bastian Schweinsteiger unimpressed.

"When you're twice down and then get the draw, it's OK, but I'm not a friend of playing for a draw or something," the German superstar said after the Fire's 2-2 tie against the Portland Timbers on Saturday at Toyota Park. "I want to win. I think we should win these kind of games. But we're not there to win these kind of games. That's why we have a lot of work to do."

Coach Veljko Paunovic looked relieved to get the first point but understands the team isn't playing well to start the season.

"We have to improve," Paunovic said. "I always look for our method and our staff to improve in teaching and coaching. But if there is no response from the other side, then players are headed to the bench, to the stands and tomorrow, elsewhere.

"We are not a charity here; this is professional soccer and who does not understand that we have to come here to learn, and improve, makes it difficult. We give it everything we have, I am not saying that it is much, but it is all we have. And we want to see answers."

Schweinsteiger provided all the answers he could, playing a key role in salvaging that draw for the Fire. After Portland scored in the sixth minute, he moved to the back line, between center backs Christian Dean and Johan Kappelhof, to steady and organize what has been a team weakness this season. The Fire (0-2-1, 1 point) has allowed 8 goals in three games.

But Schweinsteiger also found a way to assist on both Fire goals. Like his countryman Arne Friedrich did in 2012 for the Fire, Schweinsteiger took it upon himself to find opportunities to dribble forward and try to create something for a team that looked lifeless in the first half.

"Even from there it doesn't mean that you are just watching the game from the back line, you know," he added. "You should take responsibility from there."

he Fire benefitted from the energy and fight of second-half subs Diego Campos and Drew Conner. Conner, a third-year homegrown player from Cary, said he looked to add a spark when he entered.

The Fire tied the game at 1 in the 50th minute when Brandon Vincent and Schweinsteiger assisted on Nemanja Nikolic's third goal of the season. Nikolic was presented with his 2017 Golden Boot award before the game.

Portland answered right away, retaking the lead in the 55th on a Sebastian Blanco header.

The Fire tied the game for a second time in the 84th minute, Brandon Vincent heading in a Schweinsteiger cross into the Timbers' penalty area.

"Especially when you see your team go down a goal at home," Conner said. "My mindset going into the game is always to try to bring a spark and some energy and some life to the game."

Campos, a second-round draft pick this season, earned his first playing MLS time. Campos came on ahead of first-round picks Jon Bakero and Mo Adams, both of whom the Fire traded up to draft but have yet to play. Third-round pick Elliot Collier, who played collegiately at Loyola, earned his second start.

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