The Portland Timbers needed all the luck and grit they could muster to come away from Saturday night’s match against the Colorado Rapids with a 2-2 draw. Despite going down to ten men with more than half an hour left in the match, the Timbers held on and managed to secure the point.
The visiting Rapids started the match by ceding possession to the Timbers and welcoming them into the attacking end, looking to strike on the counter. Playing a deep and organized defensive block, the Rapids dared the Timbers to break them down while looking to make life difficult for their hosts.
In the 18th minute, the Rapids came within inches of opening the scoring. Having broken out of their shell and gotten the ball forward, the Rapids found Kai Kamara lurking on the edge of the box. Kamara shook off his man and fired off a low shot that Steve Clark got the narrowest of touches, forcing it off the post rather than into the back of the net.
Just over a minute later the Timbers found a chance of their own. After a series of passes down the pitch found Sebastian Blanco in space, the Argentine fed a diagonal ball into the box for the run of Jeremy Ebobisse. With Lalas Abubakar on his back Ebobisse continued his run and found just enough space to clip a low shot at the near post that forced Tim Howard to get low and make the save.
The Timbers got their break through in the 27th minute off a corner kick in truly bizarre fashion. Diego Valeri’s curling ball into the box off the restart fell to Rapids center back Tommy Smith alone in the box. As the ball dipped just behind him, Smith powered a perfect header into the back of the net, giving Howard no chance and the Timbers a 1-0 lead on the own goal.
The lead would last mere moments, however, and the Rapids struck immediately after play resumed. After receiving the ball out on the right flank, Kamara hit a curling ball through the box that winger Jonathan Lewis calmly collected before hitting a curling shot inside the far post to even the scoreline at 1-1.
The Timbers came close again in the 30th minute after their own restart, finding Blanco wide on the right flank where the midfielder had time to set his sights on goal and uncork a shot that had Howard diving across the face of goal to push it away.
As the second half drew to a close, the Rapids took the game to the Timbers. Catching their hosts with players committed forward in the 44th minute, the Rapids threw themselves into a quick break down the pitch, finding Lewis to lead a two man break toward the South Deck with only Clark between him and the goal. As he entered the eighteen yard box, Lewis slid a simple ball through to the back post for the run of Andre Shinyashiki who struck first time, but was stopped as Clark scrambled across the face of goal and got a miracle hand to the ball, pushing it off the post. In the ensuing chaos, Shinyashiki recovered the ball and chipped it back into the center of the box, finding Kamara for a diving header from point blank range only for Clark to again make the diving save.
Before the whistle sounded for halftime the Rapids would have one last crack at breaking the tie. Again finding Kamara on the edge of the box, the wily forward cut the ball toward the center of the pitch and hit a low shot that skipped along the pitch as it headed toward the far post. Before it could hit the side netting, however, Clark again managed to get a glove to the shot, diving at full stretch to preserve the 1-1 scoreline.
Things took a turn for the Timbers in the 55th minute when Blanco was taken down while winding up to take a shot on the edge of the Rapids box. Referee Kevin Stott waved play on and the Rapids broke down the pitch with Blanco still down on the turf. As Colorado looked to get the ball forward, Julio Cascante slid through the plant leg of Kamara, taking the Rapids forward down and prompting an immediate red card from Stott.
Stott stayed central to the match when, in the 62nd minute, a ball played into the Rapids box hit the raised arm of Abubakar and Stott quickly blew his whistle, pointing emphatically to the spot. Valeri stepped up to take the penalty and cooly struck the ball post Howard to give the Timbers a 2-1 lead.
As the match opened up with the Rapids looking for an equalizer and the Timbers looking to put the match away, Colorado came close to finding the goal they were so desperately seeking in the 71st minute. A pass into the Timbers box found Nicolas Mezquida in on goal, but as Mezquida looked to chip the bouncing ball up and over Clark the Timbers keeper managed to stick out both hands and block the ball away.
Unfortunately, the equalizer would come in the 76th minute. A long ball over the top found substitute Sam Nicholson streaking down the Timbers’ left flank. Nocholson brought the ball down and under control deep in the corner of the pitch, before cutting back and carrying it to the top of the box where he hit a swerving shot at the near post that caught Clark off balance and knotted up the scoreline at 2-2.
From there the match turned into a cagey affair, with neither side willing to risk much in search of a goal. While the Timbers looked to find Brian Fernandez on the break, the Rapids looked to break the Timbers down with their numerical advantage. Neither side would find much joy in the final minutes of the match, however, and were forced to settle for a single point.
The Timbers are back in action on Thursday when they will host Orlando City SC in league play.