Moreno steals a point at the death in Columbus

by Charlie Folkestad
Santiago Moreno celebrates his game-tying goal in Columbus.

The Portland Timbers played terribly against the Columbus Crew on Sunday morning, yet they still managed to fly out of Ohio with a point. The 1-1 draw was hardly deserved, but it’s an immense point for the Timbers as they jostle for a playoff spot.

Santiago Moreno’s 95th-minute miracle rescued a point for the hapless Timbers, who were without recent starting center back Zac McGraw due to yellow card accumulation.

Match Summary

McGraw was the only usual starter out, but it wasn’t the only lineup change. Dairon Asprilla had been playing center forward in Portland’s four-match win streak, but he moved to right wingback in this match as part of Gio Savarese’s back-five.

Both Asprilla and former starting center back Larrys Mabiala failed to track a darting Kevin Molino run in the 36th minute, allowing Columbus to take a 1-0 lead.

It was a deserved advantage for the home team, who had stifled nearly every Portland attack while patiently drawing out their defense. The Timbers mustered just three measly shots in the first half — none of which were on target.

Convincing enough for Caleb Porter and the Crew, who are still fighting for a playoff spot of their own out East despite dropping points week after week.

Columbus’ stars, Cucho Hernandez and Lucas Zelarayan, got their handful of chances throughout the game (registering seven and five shots, respectively), but never found the back of the net. Zelarayan did assist Molino’s goal with a lovely layoff, though.

Meanwhile, Portland’s Sebastian Bloanco looked off. He couldn’t generate more than one chance during his now-customary three quarters of gameplay.

Columbus had their chances to put the game away. One of them even found the net, though Derrick Etienne Jr.’s goal was immediately flagged offside by the thinnest of margins.

The second half was different than the first, but Portland still hardly deserved a goal. Eloy Room was heroic in goal for the Crew, stopping Yimmi Chara’s shot from the center of the box and Bill Tuiloma’s strong header off a corner.

Room’s biggest problem was Santiago Moreno. The diminutive Portland winger enjoyed a freer attacking role than his typical wingback position, and he created pretty much all of Portland’s chances on the day. There was his cross to Yimmi, his dangerous corner kicks, and, eventually, his goal.

It was a flukey goal, to be sure, but one Moreno and the Timbers will cherish. Tuiloma’s unaware headed assist surely added fire to the seething Crew faithful’s displeasure.

As of Monday, Portland sit fifth in the Western Conference on both points per match and straight points. 

Portland now face two of their biggest tests of the 2022 season to round out their regular season slate: hosting LAFC in the home closer before traveling to Real Salt Lake for Decision Day.

Notes

  • Portland committed 21 fouls to Columbus’ seven.
  • Diego Chara was subbed off the pitch for the second time all year in MLS play.
  • Juan David Mosquera made his Timbers debut, subbing in at right back in the 82nd minute.
  • Portland broke their four-match winning streak, but are still unbeaten in five since losing in Kansas City on August 21st.

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