Columbus took home only 1 point in a thrilling contest in Portland against the Timbers. Gregg Berhalter had mentioned his intentions to switch around some of the squad due to the inept performances in recent weeks, but his decision was forced for this game with a couple members leaving for international duty.
Michael Parkhurst and Waylon Francis were away, so Tyson Wahl and Chad Barson took their respective spots in the starting lineup. Giancarlo Gonzalez will also be leaving with Costa Rica, but was able to make this match. There has been a lot of speculation about who Berhalter will fit into the team to make up for the absences of Parkhurst, Francis and Gonzalez. It looks like Tyson Wahl will start in the center of defense and Barson on the left side.
As for the other center back, my money is on Eric Gehrig. Gehrig played well last season when he came in for Glauber’s injury, but he hasn’t had a chance to break into the side yet this year. This could be his chance to prove himself to Berhalter. Justin Meram also made the starting lineup, taking the place of a disappointing Bernardo Anor.
As for the actual match, it was a memorable one. Max Urruti scored the opener for Portland when a defensive mix-up allowed him way too much space in the box and the Argentinian was able to score from a tight angle. The Crew equalized quickly from a piece of magic from the Crew’s own Argentinian. Higuain took the ball after some good work from Wil Trapp, looked up and saw the Ricketts off his line, and chipped him from 25 yards. It was a great goal, not only because of the quality, but also because it broke the goalless streak the Crew was in the midst of.
Later, in the 33rd minute, it went from bad to worse for Portland when Alvas Powell was issued a straight red for a reckless tackle on Chad Barson. The referee’s decision was probably influenced by the huge fall that Barson took as a result of the foul, but a red card was definitely the right decision. It was incredibly reckless, and Barson was lucky to escape uninjured.
The Crew went on to take a halftime lead when Futty Danso was adjudged to have pulled back Gonzalez in the box for a Crew penalty. Higuain stepped up and buried the penalty kick and the Crew was winning for the first time in a long time going into halftime.
The 2nd half proved to be even crazier than the first. With a man advantage, the Crew was able to keep ahold of the ball and inflate the possession statistics but it was Portland that got the next goal to tie it. Captain Will Johnson scored in the 80th minute after a scrum in the box and celebrated wildly in front of the crowd.
But the tie would not last long. Literally seconds later, after the restart, Higuain found new sub Ethan Finlay whose deflected shot went past Ricketts and gave the Crew a late lead. Again though, the lead wouldn’t last long and Portland were able to tie it again in the 85th minute through a long ball by Valeri, a knockdown by new man Fanendo Adi, and a goal from Fernandez.
The game ended 3-3 and the Crew left with only 1 point.
It was a disappointing game because the Crew was playing for so long with an extra man. Going into halftime leading by a goal was crucial and all the black and yellow had to do was to keep the ball and deny Portland space on the counter. They couldn’t do it, and Portland had some excellent finishing throughout the match. A positive for the Crew was the 3 goals. For a team that has one of the lowest goals per game ratio in the league, 3 goals on the road in Portland is impressive, even if it took the individual brilliance of Higuain to unlock it.
As for Federico, I’m convinced that he’s one of the top 3 players in the league, and Berhalter needs to bring in other players of his caliber to get the Crew competing again. I’m in awe in almost every single match he plays, and his overall play seems underrated in the league as a whole. More of that please, Pipa. Columbus plays their next match at home against Chicago on May 24th.
(image courtesy of Columbus Crew)