By MIKE DONOVAN
PORTLAND, Ore.- With both teams slipping in the standings, the Columbus Crew and Portland Timbers combined for a wild match at Providence Park that saw six goals, a red card, and numerous contentious moments for both sides.
In the end, the match finished tied in a 3-3 draw with Federico Higuain leading the way with a brace for Columbus. Portland’s Maxi Urruti, Will Johnson, and Gaston Fernandez found the scoresheet for the Timbers, while Columbus’s third goal came from Ethan Finley. A first-half red card to Alvas Powell left the Timbers short-handed for a majority of the match.
After playing down a man for 46 minutes and trailing 2-1 since the first half, the Timbers finally found their equalizer when Johnson tied the match up in the 80th minute when his right footed shot left Crew goalkeeper Steve Clark helpless after a Jack Jewsbury pass.
Directly after clawing their way back to tie it, the Timbers saw their lead slip away less than a minute later when a Ethan Finley shot took a heavy deflection off Danso and into the net. It was Finley’s first touch after coming on as a substitute and was his first goal of his MLS career.
But Portland was able to equalize again in the 85th minute when substitute Gaston Fernandez stuck a foot onto a Fanendo Adi header and sent the Timbers Army into a frenzy. Adi was making his Timbers debut after being loaned to the club midweek from F.C. Copenhagen. The goal was Fernandez’s team-leading fifth of the season.
Despite being down a man for the entire second half, the Timbers were able to produce two goals in addition to firing eight shots in the final 45.
“If they played like they played in that second half, I think we’re going to be a very difficult team to beat,” Timbers head coach Caleb Porter said about his team.
The late-game frenzy was far away from happening when just five minutes into the match, Urruti put the Timbers on the board by back-heeling a Steve Zakuani pass to himself and then roofing the ball over Steve Clark. The goal was Urruti’s second of the season as the Argentine was able to get on the scoresheet in his first start in four matches.
Columbus waited nine minutes to answer Urruti’s goal when Federico Higuain chipped Donovan Ricketts from 25-plus yards from goal to level the score. Will Trapp and Hector Jimenez worked their way through the Timbers midfield on the build-up, but it was Higuain who delivered the finish.
Alvas Powell, who was inserted into the lineup due to Michael Harrington being injured, received a straight red card in the first half when he went through Chad Barson after chasing down a loose ball. Caleb Porter then brought on defender Jorge Villafana to replace Urruti.
Higuain’s second goal came after Danso was called for bringing down Giancarlo Gonzalez in the area on a corner kick. His penalty kick sent Ricketts the wrong way and gave Columbus the halftime lead.
While proud of his club’s fight back for a result in a second straight match, Johnson, the Timbers captain, was again left to wonder about some of the plays made by the club.
“We have the heart of a lion and the brain of a goldfish,” Johnson said immediately following the match.
The three-goal outburst marked just the third time this season that Portland scored more than one goal in a match.
“We were able to score three goals, so obviously there are good things going on, (but) we still have to make adjustments,” Fernandez said through a translator.
In addition to his two goals, Higuain also had the assist on Finley’s late goal. The Argentine DP now has six goals and three assists on the season.
The Crew were without two starters due to international call-ups, with captain Michael Parkhurst (U.S.A) and defender Waylon Francis (Costa Rica) both missing the match. Defender Giancarlo Gonzalez was also called in by Costa Rica but remained with Columbus for the match.
Due to injuries, Portland did not have the services of midfielder Diego Chara and defender Harrington. Both players had started every match this season prior to Saturday.
“There’s enough games to make up the ground and we know we are capable of doing it,” midfielder Ben Zemanski, who was starting his first match of the season, said. “It gives us confidence, but obviously we want to stop putting ourselves in holes.”
While Columbus was able to put an end to a three-match losing streak, the club saw its winless run hit eight matches. Next up for the Crew (3-4-4, 13 points) is a Saturday home match against the Chicago Fire.
Portland (1-3-7, 10 points) currently resides in eighth place in the Western Conference standings and will look for a positive result as they head east to face the New York Red Bulls on Saturday in Harrison, NJ.