Sebastian Blanco scored and assisted in ten-man Timbers’ 2-2 draw with the Colorado Rapids in Providence Park.
Let it be said that the Portland Timbers have never let it be boring. On a wild night at Providence Park, the Timbers, despite playing the second half with ten men due to a Bill Tuiloma red card, battled back against Colorado Rapids to rescue a 2-2 draw in front of the Timbers faithful. Equalizers from Felipe Mora and Sebastian Blanco, Portland’s two brightest attacking stars at the moment, would cancel out strikes from Colorado’s Jonathan Lewis and Michael Barrios.
The affair began as most do, with both sides going for it. Colorado, sporting a 3-4-3 look that bombed numbers forward in the attack, did not start like a team on the road. The Rapids went right at the Timbers from the jump. With their wingbacks bombing high up the pitch, Colorado created some early danger for the Timbers. The backline, and Steve Clark in particular, were called upon to deal with a few threatening crosses early.
Portland wouldn’t back down and would find their attacking chances as well. Sebastian Blanco was once again the catalyst. Any kind of promising move forward from the Timbers stemmed from Blanco’s play. He had an early shot from a tough angle that was saved by Colorado's keeper William Yarborough. A nice moment of interplay between the Argentine and Yimmi Chara nearly created a goal for Portland in the 12th minute. Blanco had a great look after receiving a Y. Chara cutback, but couldn’t keep his first time hit down and it sailed over the bar.
However, the majority of the first half proceedings were dictated by the Rapids. Their propensity to get their wingbacks wide and put multiple attackers in the box gave the Timbers backline a lot to deal with.
The Timbers struggled to deal with the Rapids’ game plan. Jonathan Lewis had two of Colorado’s best chances of the first half. The Rapids target man had himself not one, but two, golden opportunities in front of an open net but he somehow missed them both. The chances spelled danger for the Portland backline, who were giving up too many early opportunities too cheaply.
As the first half drew to its closing stages, the game started to open up and got chippy. Hard challenges and fouls started flying in from both sides and there was a period in which three yellow cards were shown over the span of three minutes. Both sides would also get more scoring chances. Perhaps Portland’s best came after a recycled cross that Larrys Mabiala got a foot onto but he sent his shot into the south end.
The climax of the first half would come in the 42nd minute. Bill Tuiloma, who was given a yellow card in the aforementioned three-minute flurry, flew into a poorly timed challenge with both feet. He collided with a Colorado player and head referee Armando Villarreal was quick to blow the play dead. He showed Tuiloma his second yellow card and then the subsequent red card. Tuiloma was given his marching orders, Portland lost their starting right back on the night, and they were reduced to ten men.
The Timbers were able to see out the first half and both teams went into the locker rooms tied at nil-all. The first 45 minutes were fairly even with both sides totaling the same number of shots (7) and shots on goal (2). The Rapids enjoyed the edge in possession (58%-42%). However, the key difference going into the second 45 was that Portland would have to play the rest of the match a man down.
Portland’s first move to respond to the man disadvantage was to bring on Josecarlos Van Rankin for Yimmi Chara, prioritizing the solidity of the backline. It was an important move as Portland’s backline would likely be under siege for most of the second half.
Colorado would whip in a plethora of crosses over the course of the second half, totaling 43 on the night. Much of the rest of the proceedings would be marked by the Rapids controlling possession, Portland sitting deep, and the Timbers’ backline dealing with Colorado crosses and shots in the box. And through the opening stages of the second half, the backline held firm.
The Timbers would also find decent opportunities on the break. Portland’s best chances came from set-piece opportunities. The service on free kicks and corners was usually decent but Portland couldn’t quite find the final nod or touch needed to find the net.
Despite Portland’s best efforts, their backline could not keep out the persistent Colorado Rapids attack. In the 64th minute, Mark Anthony Kaye would rifle a through ball into the box. It would ping off of Andre Shinyashiki right to Lewis in front of the goal, who once again found himself in a great scoring position in the Timbers’ box. This time Lewis wouldn’t make a mistake and he smoothly slotted the ball into the bottom corner past Steve Clark. The Timbers were down a man, and now down a goal.
But it wouldn’t stay that way for long. The response from Timbers was almost instant, and it came via their red-hot striker Felipe Mora in the 67th minute. Blanco whipped in a great cross to the far post from an attacking free kick. It found the head of Dario Zuparic bombing on, who nodded it across the face of goal to an eagerly waiting unmarked Mora. The Chilean striker reared back and headed the ball home at the far post with authority. In front of a jubilant Timbers Army, Portland bounced back to get on level terms.
Neither side would be undeterred by the quick goal flurry, Colorado would once again come in waves at the Portland backline. Some crucial and last-ditch defending would do just enough to keep the Colorado attack at bay, with a particular sequence in the 73rd minute where Van Rankin made a crucial intervention at the far post being emblematic.
This pattern continued for the bulk of the second half. Colorado threw numbers forward and Portland tried to be opportunistic with their chances going forward. It appeared that Portland was destined for a disappointing, but well-earned draw at home.
The tide shifted again in the 87th minute. Michael Barrios collected the ball on the far right side and was very nearly forced out of bounds by Claudio Bravo. Barrios would fire off a speculative cross that unexpectedly curled toward Steve Clark’s goal. Clark couldn’t get enough on the ball and it slipped past his fingers, pinged off the far post, and into the back of the net. Portland, after battling hard for so much of the second half, had given up what appeared to be the back breaker.
You would be forgiven at this point to think that the Timbers were cooked. The match entered stoppage time and Colorado looked set and were prepared to defend their one-goal lead.
But Dairon Asprilla and Sebastian Blanco had other ideas.
In the first minute of second-half stoppage time, Asprilla would do as Asprilla is oft to do- collect the ball, put his head down, and run right at the defense. He skipped past his man and took the ball to the end line, driving in a low cross from the left side. The ball would ricochet out to the on-rushing Blanco, who rifled the ball into the back of the net, sending the North end into delirium. For the second time tonight, and at perhaps the best possible moment, Portland had once again found their equalizer.
The final whistle would soon blow, and despite going down a man and down a goal on two separate occasions, The Timbers had somehow gone to the well and battled back to earn a point.
It was yet another respectable and strong effort from the Timbers who continue their stretch of good form. While the red card made things more difficult, and likely played a factor in Portland not being able to find a win on the night, it was still an impressive feat to battle back twice all while being at a man down.
Portland will have little time to fully rest on their laurels as the in-form LAFC is coming to town on Sunday. If Portland is to bolster their resume and truly prove themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the Western Conference, they will need to continue to show this level of effort on the weekend, and in the matches to come.
The Timbers take on LAFC in Providence Park on Sunday. The match will kickoff at 4:30 p.m. (Pacific).