The Portland Timbers are perfect no more after losing 3-2 on the road to the Columbus Crew. The Timbers looked strong throughout the match, but absences hurt the side against a technical Crew attack.
The Timbers opened the scoring in just the 4th minute, breaking quickly down the field and finding Sebastian Blanco in the middle of the pitch. The diminutive Argentine midfielder picked out a smooth through ball for the run of Dairon Asprilla in behind his man. Cutting in from the right, Asprilla received the ball and after a touch fired off a low, hard shot that beat the dive of Crew keeper Zach Steffen and just picked out the inside of the far post to put the Timbers up 1-0.
The lead would not last for long, however, as the Crew charged back and pulled the game level in the 11th. Putting pressure on the visitors, the Crew served a corner into the Timbers box at the back post, finding the head of forward Ola Kamara. The Crew striker nodded the ball down on goal, but Alvas Powell was on hand to make the block. As the ball bounced across the face of goal, however, no Timber was able to put a boot to it and Crew midfielder Justin Meram pounced, smashing home a close range shot to bring the score to 1-1.
With momentum now on their side, the Crew piled on, grabbing a second goal in the 19th minute off a quick break down the pitch. A long, cross-field ball found Kamara running into the space behind Powell, who was committed down the pitch. Jake Gleeson rushed out to win the ball, but found himself stranded in no-man’s land as Kamara hit a volley off the bounce that dipped over the head of the Timbers keeper, giving Columbus the 2-1 lead.
As the first half wore on, however, the momentum would begin to swing in the Timbers’ favor and the visitors were able to put together a series of chances, including one shot from distance pinged off the post by Diego Valeri.
Finally, in the 45th minute, the Timbers’ chances paid off. Off short restart in the midfield, the Timbers sprung Powell down the right flank where the full back was able to get off a low cross that skimmed through the box. It looked like Valeri would take the chance on the run, but the Maestro stepped over the ball, dummying it through to Fanendo Adi. With a defender on his back, Adi received the ball, turned, and fired home a shot that that left Steffen waving in vain and brought the Timbers equal at 2-2. Adi’s goal, his fourth of the season, brought him even with Timbers’ legend John Bain on the side’s all-time regular season scoring chart with 45 goals.
After the break, both teams came out looking for the game winning goal, but chances were few and far between. As both sides pushed forward, the match increasingly felt the unpredictable influence of referee Silvio Petrescu. The Crew came on strong late in the half, however, pinning the Timbers back in their own end and sending ball after ball into the Portland box.
The Crew pressure paid off in the 84th minute as the home side were able to find a crack in the Timbers’ defense and regain the lead. Following a series of balls into the Timbers box, a final cross found the run of Kamara and the Crew forward was able to chest the ball toward goal, forcing Gleeson into a quick reaction save. The Timbers keeper pushed the ball away, but again it was a Crew player who pounced. Debutant Niko Hansen was the player on the spot and the rookie forward was able to connect well with the ball, giving Gleeson no chance at the follow up and pushing the Crew back in front at 3-2.
With only a handful of minutes left, the Timbers looked for the equalizer, but the Crew killed the game off efficiently and at the final whistle the visitors would take their first loss of the season.
The Timbers will try to get their strong start to the season back on track next weekend with a home match against the New England Revolution on Sunday, April 2nd.