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Columbus Crew fall 3-1 to the Portland Timbers

Columbus Crew SC forward Federico Higuain is preparing for the upcoming MLS season. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

COLUMBUS, OH – In his first match against his old team, Columbus Crew head coach Caleb Porter probably wished he was on the other side of the outcome. The Portland Timbers broke Columbus’ undefeated home streak that dated back to June of 2018, beating the hosts 3-1 and getting their first win of the season.

Portland made the most of their first-half chances. Despite having only three shots on goal, the Timber scored twice. The first goal came off a set piece, with Larrys Mabiala heading home a ball from Diego Valeri in the 31st minute. Zack Steffen got his hands on the ball, but couldn’t stop it from crossing the line.

”Eight, nine out of ten times I stop that ball,” Steffen said, “obviously I need to get that one and keep it zero-zero.”

The double came just four minutes later, when Jeremy Ebobisse was left unmarked in the box. A miscommunication between Gaston Sauro and Jonathan Mensah left the Timber’s forward wide open, and he slotted a pass from from Sebastian Blanco into the net with ease.

“[Portland] was very opportunistic today,” Porter said after the game, “I thought they were extremely opportunistic with the few chances they had. We came out very well, we got stunned from the goal on the set piece. I thought then from there we weren’t good for the next 20 minutes. I really thought that 20 minutes were the only 20 minutes we weren’t good.”

The game was very physical, and center official Chris Penso seemed content to let it be that way. Fouls were few and far between, and each squad was lucky not to get more yellow cards. Zarek Valentin did receive a caution in the 25th minute for a tactical pull on Gyasi Zardes, and Tomas Conechny received one in the 75th minute for dissent. Federico Higuain had an early foul that could’ve easily been a card with his hand to the neck of a Portland attacker, and Sauro had a sliding tackle from behind that was called for a foul.

Columbus couldn’t finish any of the multitude of chances it created in the first half. Jeff Attinella provided good coverage between the posts, stopping more than one Crew attack. However, he made a blunder with his feet, giving the ball right to Higuain. The Argentine couldn’t put the empty net shot on target. 

The same mistake came back to bite Attinella in the second half, when he passed the ball straight to Pedro Santos. The winger scored just his second ever goal for the Crew with a beautiful chip that halved the deficit in the 69th minute. That left Columbus with plenty of time to find the equalizer, but a second goal never came. In fact, another shot on target never came. Finishing the chances that are created has been a weak point for the Crew this season. “When you get into a game, it’s time to be ruthless,” team captain Wil Trapp said, “it’s a lot of focus and a lot of training, but then when the game comes you have to be 100% in those moments.”

Portland finished the game with a dagger from Jorge Moreira in stoppage time. It’s the first win of the season for the Timbers, who only scored six goals coming into the contest.

The loss is the second in a row for Columbus after falling on the road 1-0 to the Montreal Impact last week. The Crew now face a short turnaround before hosting D.C. United on Wednesday. 

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