The Portland Timbers came from behind to win their final cross-conference match of the regular season in convincing fashion, taking down the Columbus Crew 3-2. The win pulls the Timbers even on points with third place Los Angeles FC.
The match started with both teams playing cautiously, probing for an opening and rarely venturing out of the middle third.
Several minutes into the match, however, the Crew became adventurous and were soon rewarded with the first chance of the night. After sending Pedro Santos to the Timbers’ end line, the Crew winger clipped a cross into the box and into the path of Patrick Mullins. Mullins rose up and put a glancing header on the ball, but could not steer it toward goal, instead sending the chance skipping out over the end line for a goal kick.
Moments later, the Crew grabbed the opener when, in the 7th minute, the visitors won the ball in the Timbers end and streamed forward toward goal. The Crew found Milton Valenzuela wide on the Timbers’ right flank where the Crew man was able to play a low ball into the box for the run of Niko Hansen. With his first touch, Hansen put a boot to the ball, finishing past a scrambling Steve Clark to give the Crew a 1-0 lead.
The goal seemed to suck the life out of the Timbers for the remainder of the opening fifteen minutes, and in the 12th minute the Crew came close to extending their lead when Santos played Mullins in behind a staggered Timbers line. Racing toward goal, Mullins attempted to play a chipped shot around Clark, but the Timbers keeper was able to put a slight touch on the ball; just enough to send it spinning wide of goal.
After the fifteen minute mark, however, the Timbers came to life.
In the 17th minute, the Timbers came inches from drawing even when Diego Chara won the ball deep in the Crew end and cut the ball back to Andy Polo at the top of the box. With defenders all around him, Polo got off a quick shot that skimmed just wide of the near post on its way out for a goal kick.
Then, in the 18th minute, the Timbers got the equalizer. A ball out wide from Sebastian Blanco found Polo in space and the Timbers midfielder took the measure of the ball before swinging a perfectly placed cross in to the back post to find David Guzman goal side of his marker. Guzman rose up and put a snap header on the ball, powering it past Zack Steffen to bring the scoreline to 1-1.
Now back on equal footing, the Crew found a pair of good chances from free kicks on the edge of the Timbers box. First, in the 22nd minute, Valenzuela hit a curling free kick that swerved around the wall and was headed on goal only for Clark to snag it comfortably out of the air. Then, in the 26th, Santos took a chance from the opposite side of the pitch and this time the free kick had enough zip on it to force Clark into a sprawling save that pushed the ball wide of goal.
After the spat of chances, the match calmed down until the 36th minute, when the Crew carried the ball down the pitch and a scramble ensued at the edge of the Timbers box. Santos emerged with the ball and was able to find space to squeeze off a shot, but Clark was on the spot and able to turn the ball up and over the bar.
Just as it looked like the Crew might be reasserting themselves on the game, the Timbers struck. In the 37th minute, the Timbers went on a quick, flowing counterattack down the pitch through Polo wide on the right. The young Peruvian played a long pass into the path of Blanco who returned the ball to him on a run into the box. Polo headed the ball back across the face of goal, leaving Steffen stranded, but a Crew defender was the first to it. With the ball bouncing toward the end line, Polo was the quickest to react, launching himself into the air and connecting with the outside of his boot to flick the ball past the last defenders, and the post, into the back of the net.
Early in the second half, the Timbers extended their lead. In the 48th minute, the Timbers got forward on another counter attack with Diego Valeri carrying the ball down the center of the pitch. Driving the ball forward, Valeri played a through ball into the path of Diego Chara, overlapping on his left. Chara cut toward the center of the pitch and popped off a shot that was blocked away, sending the ball looping through the air and into the path of Samuel Armenteros on the far side of the pitch. Taking the ball down in the box, Armenteros got off a low-angle shot that skipped off the leg of center back Lalas Abubakar and around Steffen to give the Timbers a two goal lead.
In the 56th minute, Valeri again found himself on the break, but this time the Maestro was in on goal and went for it himself. Taking a touch away from his defender, Valeri hit a hard shot from a tight angle, but Steffen was able to block the ball away and out for a corner kick. Off the corner, the ball was headed away from goal, but only got as far as Sebastian Blanco who hammered a volleyed shot back into the mixer where it deflected off Abubakar and away.
The breaks continued to come for the Timbers and in the 68th minute, Polo had yet another chance as he was played into the Crew box by Blanco. With a man on his back, however, Polo was off balance and sent his shot up and into the stands.
In the 77th minute, the Crew had a chance of their own when Hansen got on the ball on the end line and was able to get off a quick shot. The attempt was not enough to trouble Clark, however, as the Timbers keeper got down quickly to make the grab.
The visitors had a pair of final chances in stoppage time. The first came off another free kick on the edge of the Timbers box. This time, Mullins stepped up to the ball, firing a low shot that went under the jump of the Timbers wall and forced Clark to make a diving save to keep the scoreline at 3-1.
It would not last, however, as the Crew got forward for one final chance. The Crew found substitute Connor Maloney out wide on the Timbers’ left and the winger hit a curled in cross that found the head of Hansen in front of goal. Hansen made no mistake with his header, powering it into the back of the net to pull the Crew back within one.
There would be no more chances for the Crew as the final whistle blew just moments after play resumed.
The Timbers are back on the road for their next match, heading east to take on Minnesota United this Saturday.