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Fire’s defense will be key vs. Timbers

Defender Jalil Anibab(foreground) says Fire won’t make mistake underestimating Timbers’ offense. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

Defender Jalil Anibaba (foreground) says the Fire won’t make the mistake of underestimating the Timbers’ offense. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Fire at Timbers

The facts: 6, Galavision.

Updated: July 1, 2012 11:55AM

Because he trained with the Portland Timbers last summer before his senior season at Louis-
ville, Fire rookie Austin Berry could play the role of double agent in preparation for his team’s road game Sunday in Portland, Ore.

But Berry’s firsthand knowledge only would confirm what is well-known throughout the league: The Timbers play as
direct a style as any team in
Major League Soccer and look to pressure opposing defenses with a number of offensive tactics.

The Fire expects the Timbers to be even more aggressive offensively, considering they’ve gone scoreless in their last three games.

‘‘They’re a team right now that’s fighting for points, so you can expect the whole kitchen sink thrown at you,’’ midfielder Logan Pause said. ‘‘They’re going to do everything they can, and we have to be ready for that.

‘‘But we have to also maybe use it to our advantage, stay compact, defend well and hopefully get them on the counter a little bit.’’

Contrasting styles often can result in the most exciting games. The defensive-minded Fire looks to score in transition. With the numbers the Timbers send forward, the Fire should get a number of scoring opportunities if it is able to stave off the attack.

Much of that rests on the performance of a new-look back line. Berry and Jalil Anibaba will start in the middle of the Fire’s defense for the first time after Arne Friedrich was diagnosed with a hamstring strain that will keep him out three to four weeks.

The duo expects to be tested early and is focused despite the Timbers’ recent struggles.

‘‘That’s no reason to under-
estimate their attack, especially at home,’’ Anibaba said. ‘‘They’re going to bring a lot of numbers forward. So we have to be very, very aware of that and have that covered and defend as a team.’’

The key defensively will be for the Fire to ensure every player is marked. That requires the entire team to defend and even will pull forwards Sebastian Grazzini and Dominic Oduro back.

There’s no reason to think the Fire won’t be up to the task. It has earned seven points in its last three games and has allowed two goals during that span.

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