After a slow "feeling out" period from both squads, the Portland Timbers and Colorado Rapids shifted things into gear and played to a 2-2 draw in Commerce City, Colorado Saturday night. A first half strike from Diego Valeri gave the visiting Timbers a halftime lead, and Gaston Fernandez equalized in the second half after the Rapids built a 2-1 lead.
Portland was without captain Will Johnson who was being given a rest following 35 straight league starts dating back to last season. With the team facing three games in eight days, head coach Caleb Porter elected to give Johnson a rest so he could be fresh for the next two matches.
Leaving Johnson at home wasn't Porter's only tough lineup decision. The gaffer elected to run out the same back four that conceded three times last weekend at home to San Jose. But, both decisions appeared to be paying off as Portland kept Colorado at bay for the first 20 minutes. The calmness came to an end in the 24th minute however, when Pa Kah's mishit pass deep in Timbers territory led to a shot that called Donovan Ricketts into action for the first of three very important saves on the evening.
Portland responded with chances of their own in the 28th and 31st minutes. Nagbe danced down the sideline in the 24th before cutting inside and laying the ball off for Diego Chara deep inside Colorado's penalty area. Chara couldn't quite pick out the right pass and his ball across the six yard box deflected out for a corner. A few minutes later it was Fanendo Adi's chance to put the Timbers up, but his redirection of a Valeri shot was high.
Both squads continued to press as the first half wore on until the Timbers finally opened the scoring in the 43rd minute. Valeri started the nice sequence off with a sideline-to-sideline switch which Alvas Powell brought down and dropped to Diego Chara. Chara drove forward and played a ball into Adi posting up at the top of the box. Adi deftly one-touched the ball to a streaking Valeri who's left-footed side volley gave problems to Colorado goalkeeper John Berner and found its way into the back of the net.
No doubt Portland thought they could turn the screws against a Colorado side that had entered the match on a massive 7-game skid as the second period began, but it was just the opposite. The home team scored twice, first in the 48th (on a very questionable penalty call) and again in the 66th, to turn the game on its head and take a 2-1 lead.
Ricketts came up big again on a pair of occasions to keep the deficit at one and buy some time for the Timbers to make some substitutions and put together a few equalizing opportunities. Two of those subs, Maxi Urruti and Fernandez, finally made good on those chances by combining for the equalizer in the 76th.
The last 15 minutes got increasingly chippy as both teams searched for a game-winner, but none would come.
Portland next play midweek in CONCACAF Champions League action before returning to league play against Vancouver next Saturday at Providence Park.
Sorry for the delay in posting, folks. My bad. -Will