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Fernandez to the rescue for Timbers

by: COURTESY OF JOHN LARIVIERE - Gaston Fernandez collects the ball in the box as the Portland Timbers play the Chicago Fire to a 1-1 draw at Providence Park.Portland Timbers striker Gaston Fernandez has bailed out the club not once, but twice.

Fernandez is a 5-7, 160-pound 30-year-old from Argentina, playing in his first MLS season. The striker scored a stoppage-time goal against Philadelphia and a goal in the 79th minute last Sunday against the Chicago Fire to help Portland salvage 1-1 draws.

“He’s a great player,” Timbers coach Caleb Porter says. “He’s a quality player. A lot of people are forgetting that he’s just been in this country for a couple of months. It takes guys sometimes a year or two to settle in and get comfortable in this league.

"For large periods of (Sunday’s) game, he took the game over. He’s not the biggest player, but he’s smart. He gets himself in and around goal. Goal scorers, the ball seems to find them.”

• While Fernandez has been able to find the back of the net, the rest of the Timbers roster seems as if they have a case of the yips around goal. Against Chicago, the Timbers had 21 shots and put seven balls on frame.

“We’re getting into good positions," Porter says. "If we were the team that had less possession and less shots, I’d be worried.”

• After the Timbers gave up a set-piece goal against Philadelphia, a lot was made about Portland’s lack of height hurting the club. When the Timbers did not give up a set-piece goal against Chicago, Porter requested that the media make a big deal about that.

“You talk about it all the time when we give up one," he said. "It would be nice to hear you talk about it when we do well (on set pieces).”

• Possession time and other factors have helped the Portland defense start strong this season.

“We defend as a team,” Porter says. “The natural thing is to credit the backs and the goalkeeper for not giving up goals in the run of play. They’re part of that for sure. But collective defending is why we don’t give up many goals. The other reason is because we’re on the ball a lot.”