The Portland Timbers played out a controversial 3-3 draw with the Columbus Crew on Saturday night.
Maximiliano Urruti, Will Johnson and Gaston Fernandez fired Portland’s goals, while the Crew’s came from a Federico Higuain brace and Ethan Finlay, as both sets of players took issue with officials in a game which saw Alvas Powell sent off.
The Timbers topped the Western Conference in 2013, but sat bottom prior to kick-off, meanwhile Columbus were on a run of seven games without a win and three without scoring.
Portland had required stoppage time goals in their previous two games, but converted early on here as Steve Zakuani played a delicate pass into the feet of Urruti, who turned and poked into the roof of the net.
In the 14th minute though, the Crew were level thanks to a truly breathtaking goal from Higuain. The Argentine darted forward with the ball from just inside the Timbers half, before executing a sumptuous chip over a desperate Donovan Ricketts from all of 25 yards. The strike was a fitting way for the visitors to finally hit the net for the first time this month.
Despite the two goals, the game was a relatively dull affair until Powell’s 34th minute dismissal.
The Jamaica international overran the ball leading to an ugly lunge on Chad Barson, leaving the 23-year-old defender in a crumbled heap.
Just as it looked as though Portland had got into half-time all square, another decision went the visitors’ way.
Referee Jose Carlos Rivero spotted a foul on Giancarlo Gonzalez as he contested Higuain’s floated corner and awarded a penalty, from which Columbus’ goal-scorer coolly added his second of the evening.
Higuain continued to pull the strings in the second half, setting Hector Jiminez away in the 53rd minute, but the American could only hit the outside of the near post.
A Ricketts mistake gave the Crew another opportunity 14 minutes later. The 36-year-old tried to shield a Higuain pass out for a goal-kick, but was beaten to the ball and then nutmegged by Jairo Arrieta. The goal-keeper was only spared his blushes by the Costa Rican’s lack of accuracy.
Portland had gone into their shell since going behind but a strong Darlington Nagbe run and shot forced Steve Clark into his first meaningful save.
Then, incredibly, the Timbers then found an equaliser, after what looked like a blatant foul on Jack Jewsbury, Johnson lashed beyond Clark to spark mass celebrations.
But within seconds, they found themselves behind once more as Finlay cut inside from the right and though Ricketts appeared to have his strike covered, it took a wicked deflection and span into the near corner.
Determined not to give up the lead this time, Columbus continued to attack, and Bernardo Anor forced the goal-keeper into a low save with his effort from distance.
What was already a frantic ending became even more dramatic with five minutes left when Diego Valeri’s free kick into the Crew box was nodded down by debutant Fanendo Adi for Fernandez to prod across the line. Half a dozen yellow-clad players surrounded the referee and linesman claiming for offside but to no avail.
Again Columbus came forward, and Arrieta’s scuff was clawed out by a full-stretch Ricketts, but there was no further breakthrough however, and Portland held on for a well-earned point.
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