If it isn't one way, it's another. After going more than five hours without scoring a goal, the Columbus Crew scored three in Portland on Saturday night, but still emerged with only a draw despite playing with a man advantage for most of the game. The Crew have now gone winless in eight consecutive games.
The Crew gave up the first goal in the fifth minute when Maximiliano Urruti found space between the new center back pairing of Tyson Wahl and Giancarlo Gonzalez. Receiving a pass from the right flank, Urruti turned and blasted a shot over goalkeeper Steve Clark before Wahl could get into position.
The pairing of Wahl with Gonzalez was made necessary due to Michael Parkhurst's inclusion in the American World Cup roster. A second absence among the back five was Waylon Francis, who left during the week to join the Costa Rican camp. Still more defensive changes are coming, as Gonzalez himself has also been named to the Costa Rican roster.
Less than ten minutes later, the Crew's long scoreless streak was over. Federico Higuain, the Crew's talismanic midfielder, scored another goal worthy of a highlight reel - chipping goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts from outside the penalty area with an audacious shot that momentarily silenced the sellout crowd. It was potentially the most skillful goal in all of Major League Soccer this weekend, rivalled only by Obafemi Martins' strike for Seattle.
Despite the tied score, however, it was Portland who enjoyed more possession over the opening half hour. The home team kept up a steady stream of possession and corner kicks, keeping the visitors under regular pressure.
The game turned dramatically in the 34th minute, however, when Portland defender Alvas Powell was shown a straight red card for upending Crew defender Chad Barson. Barson had already cleared the ball upfield but was nevertheless sent spinning through the air by Powell.
While the Timbers were forced to play the remainder of the game - nearly an hour - short a man, the Crew seemed ill-prepared to capitalize on their advantage. Defender Josh Williams made the first mistake, going out of his way to confront Powell on his way off the field and earning a yellow card for himself in the process. He was not the only player to lose focus at times, however, as Steve Clark and Jairo Arrieta would also later find themselves booked for dissent. Higuain was also carded later in the first half for a very late challenge on Will Johnson.
Columbus weathered the storm of their emotions through the first half, however, and entered the break ahead after Higuain scored his second of the game from the penalty spot. The call was necessary after Futty Danso pulled down Gonzalez with two hands on a corner kick.
Throughout the second half the Crew held on against an increasingly resurgent Timbers team - while occasionally creating chances to put the game away. Hector Jimenez had perhaps the best of these chances in the 53rd minute when he put a shot off the outside of the post after a precision pass from Higuain. The Columbus right winger also missed connecting with Jairo Arrieta moments later.
Portland's resolve to salvage a point required Clark to produce some stellar saves, particularly in the 70th minute when he parried a blast from Will Johnson. Clark was unable to keep the Timbers at bay for long, however, and in the 80th minute Johnson finally scored his goal. Jack Jewsbury curled a run in from the left flank, drawing Anor and Barson to mark him. Tyson Wahl briefly won possession but Jewsbury managed to poke the ball to a late-arriving and unmarked Johnson in the heart of the penalty area, who converted the chance easily.
The parity did not last long, however. Ethan Finlay, sent on in relief of Jimenez after the Portland goal, scored the first goal of his professional career less than a minute later. Taking a pass from Higuain, he dribbled uncontested into space and sent a left-footed shot that caromed off Danso, wrong-footing Ricketts and restoring the visitors advantage.
Unfortunately, the game still had ten minutes to play and the Timbers' resolve proved greater. Gaston Fernandez, Portland's leading scorer and a late substitute in this game, tapped home from close range after a free kick in the 85th minute that left half the Columbus lineup clustered around the assistant referee complaining about an offside call that never came. Replays of the goal indicated a close, but ultimately correct, non-call.
The Crew return to the field officially this Saturday when they host the Chicago Fire, although the team has a trip to Dayton on Tuesday for an exhibition. By next weekend coach Gregg Berhalter may be dealing with the loss of not only Parkhurst, Francis, and Gonzalez, but also potentially reserve defender Kevan George, who has been named to the Trinidad & Tobago roster for a pair of coming friendlies.
Timeline of events
5' 0-1 Maximiliano Urruti (Steve Zakuani)
10' Corner kick, Columbus (left side - caught by Ricketts)
12' Corner kick, Portland (right side - punched by Clark)
14' 1-1 Federico Higuain (Hector Jimenez)
16' Corner kick, Columbus (right side - headed clear)
24' Corner kick, Portland (right side - caught by Clark)
30' Corner kick, Portland (left side - headed clear)
31' Corner kick, Portland (left side - headed clear)
34' Ejection, Alvas Powell (reckless tackle on Chad Barson)
34' Caution, Josh Williams (unsportsmanlike conduct)
35' Jorge Villafana replaces Maximiliano Urruti
40' Caution, Federico Higuain (late challenge on Will Johnson)
49+ Corner kick, Columbus (right side - cleared)
49+ Penalty kick, Federico Higuain
49+ 2-1 Federico Higuain (penalty)
67' Corner kick, Columbus (left side - headed clear)
70' Corner kick, Portland (right side - short, no shot taken)
75' Bernardo Anor replaces Justin Meram
75' Gaston Fernandez replaces Ben Zemanski
78' Caution, Steve Clark (dissent)
80' 2-2 Will Johnson (Jack Jewsbury)
80' Ethan Finlay replaces Hector Jimenez
81' 3-2 Ethan Finlay (Federico Higuain)
84' Fanendo Adi replaces Jorge Villafana
85' 3-3 Gaston Fernandez (Fanendo Adi, Diego Valeri)
85' Caution, Jairo Arrieta (dissent)
87' Corner kick, Columbus (right side - foul called)
Steve Clark, Josh Williams, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Tyson Wahl, Chad Barson, Tony Tchani, Wil Trapp, Hector Jimenez (Ethan Finlay 80'), Federico Higuain, Justin Meram (Bernardo Anor 75'), Jairo Arrieta
Matt Lampson, Eric Gehrig, Dan Paladini, Ben Sweat, Dominic Oduro
Donovan Ricketts, Alvas Powell (sent off 34'), Mamadou Danso, Pa-Modou Kah, Jack Jewsbury, Ben Zemanski (Gaston Fernandez 75'), Will Johnson, Darlington Nagbe, Diego Valeri, Steve Zakuani, Maximiliano Urruti (Jorge Villafana 36' (Fanendo Adi 83'))
Andrew Weber, Norberto Paparatto, Kalif Alhassan, Michael Nanchoff