In a match marred by several inches of snowfall, the Portland Timbers came back from giving up an early goal but could not hold onto a lead of their own as they ultimately drew the Colorado Rapids 3-3 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
From the outset, the cold was obvious a key part of both team’s approach to the match. For the Timbers, that meant taking much the same approach that they had taken in 2018, sitting back and daring the Rapids to press forward as they possessed the ball.
Early in the match, with their muscles still warm from the locker room, the Rapids had some joy going at the Timbers on the flanks, finding space to attack between Zarek Valentin and Jorge Villafana and their center backs.
In the 16th minute, the Rapids were paid off for their attacks down the wing. Driving toward the Timbers’ box, midfielder Kellyn Acosta played a one-two pass off full back Dillon Serna before sending a low ball through the Timbers box and finding Kei Kamara at the back post for a simple touch home.
Down 1-0, the Timbers thought they had found an equalizer in the 26th minute when a loose ball fell to Larrys Mabiala in the box and the big man hit a low shot on goal that was deflected into the air and into the path of David Guzman for a point-blank header into the back of the net. What looked like a simple goal, however, turned into a five-minute, VAR-fueled odyssey when the referee’s assistant slowly raised his flag.
With both the Timbers and Rapids pleading their respective cases, referee Drew Fischer consulted with his assistants and the video en route to awarding a red card to Rapids centerback Axel Sjoberg and a penalty to the Timbers. As he dove in front of Mabiala, Sjoberg threw his arms behind him to block his shot, making a save that Howard would have envied had it been made by another goalkeeper.
At the end of the review, it was Diego Valeri stepping up to the spot for the Timbers. The Maestro took his penalty well, shooting high and hard, but Howard — in the first of several impressive saves in the first half — make the stop. It was not enough to stop the Timbers from scoring, though, as the rebound fell nicely to Valeri who tapped the ball home into the empty net and drew the Timbers even at 1-1.
As the first half continued on the snow continued to accumulate on the field at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. The break down in conditions and the man advantage benefitted the Timbers as they forced Howard into several impressive saves, touching a Sebastian Blanco blast over the bar and pushing a low shot from Andy Polo just wide of the post.
The Timbers kept pressing and, in first half stoppage time, they found their first lead of the 2019 season. After a series of corner kicks sent into the box, Valeri finally found the head of Blanco on the edge of the six yard box where the shortest Timber redirected the ball toward goal, giving Howard no chance at the save in conditions quickly approaching a whiteout and putting the Timbers up 2-1 as the teams headed into the locker room for halftime hot chocolates.
Again warmed up by some time indoors, the Rapids struck immediately at the start of the second half. Benny Feilhaber carried the ball forward, weaving his way through the entire Timbers lineup before taking a slow shot on goal that Julio Cascante laid out to block. Cascante was successful in putting his body between the ball and the goal, but it fell directly back into the path of Feilhaber who was able to slot a quick shot past an off-balance Jeff Attinella.
Now on even footing, the Rapids looked content to lock the game down and hit out on the break while the Timbers looked to move the ball around the pitch and find a break in the back line of the home side.
The Timbers found that break in the 66th minute after an extended period of pinning the Rapids back in their box. The Timbers pinged the ball back and forth across the top of the Rapids box before sending Polo toward the right end line for a low cross into the box. Polo’s ball was blocked away by a slide from Rapids youngster Deklan Wynne, but instead of directing the ball out, Wynne put it straight into his own goal to give the Timbers a 3-2 lead.
The Rapids were not done, however, and in the 94th minute of play they managed to pull equal again. Pushing men forward in the final minute of play, the Rapids were able to work the ball into the box where it fell to rookie Andre Shinyashiki for a close-in finish to bring the scoreline to three apiece.
The Timbers are back in action next Sunday, March 10th, when they will visit Los Angeles FC for their second match of the season.