LIVE from Goose Hollow, where I already miss Diego Chara.
Every match or so, when the action inevitably reaches a certain groove, I pause tapping away at this here live-blog, turn my eyes to the pitch to find the Timbers diminutive midfielder, and watch him work for a minute or two. And now, an hour until kickoff, the withdraws are setting in. The east grandstand is as empty as my soul, as I pine to see Chara running around the pitch like a goddamn honey badger, wreaking havoc on anyone within a square foot of him. Swoon.
I'd hoped what I heard earlier this week—the broken hand Chara suffered in last week's draw vs. LA would sideline him for two weeks—was nothing more than a false flag planted by Timbers coach Caleb Porter. That Chara would sport a cast and be out there today. Or, as it plays out in my most lucid of dreams, Chara would wear a giant hand from the "Everlong" video and smack around Columbus with reckless abandon. Sigh.
But alas, the show must go (and I must carry) on. The Timbers and the Crew—two possession-happy sides desperate for wins—must somehow fill the hole in my heart. Sniffle.
So click past the jump and follow along, as I deftly describe the action—on and off the pitch.
Columbus' First XI—(3-4-3, 12 points)—Steve Clark in goal. Josh Williams, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Tyson Wahl and Chad Barson on defense. Hector Jimenez, Wil Trapp, Tony Tchani, Justin Meram and Federico Higuaín at midfield. Jairo Arrieta up front.
Available: Matt Lampson, Eric Gehrig, Ben Sweat, Dan Paladini, Ethan Finlay, Bernardo Anor and Dominic Oduro.
Portland's First XI—(1-3-6, 9 points)—Donovan Ricketts in goal. Jack Jewsbury, Futty, Pa Kah and Alvas Powell on defense. Ben Zemanski, Diego Valeri, Capt. Will Johnson and Darlington Nagbe at midfield. Maximiliano Urruti and Steve Zakuani up front.
Riding pine: Andrew Weber, Kalif Alhassan, Gaston Fernandez, Fanendo Adi, Norberto Paparatto, Michael Nanchoff and Jorge Villafana.
In terms of International call-ups, the Timbers enter tonight at full strength. You can't say the same for Columbus: They're missing a couple of key cogs to their defense, US National Teamer Michael Parkhurst and Costa Rica national Waylon Francis.
That's not a good development for a side that's majorly cooled off since starting the season with three straight wins. Since then, Columbus has lost four matches and tied three, scoring just seven times along the way. And they come in tonight having not scored in 321 minutes. Ouch. Of course, they still have Higuain, who's scary good.
For the Timbers, it's the first appearance of 23-year-old Fanendo Adi, a big Nigerian forward was brought in on loan this week to replace waived striker Frederic Piquionne.
But the issues have more been on defense for the Timbers, whose concessions of late have been borderline boneheaded. How they'll fair without Chara and left back Michael Harrington will be...something to watch.
FIRST HALF Timbers headed south... and away we go!
1st—Urruti fires one from distance, but no danger there. The only thing scary on the pitch at the moment is Columbus' uniform choice.
3rd—Higuain takes the match's first free kick from distance, but Portland heads it away.
5th—Zakuani runs ahead and is fouled about 35 yards out. Valeri lining it up from a dangerous spot. He sends it in, but it's just wide. Columbus tries to clear, but Johnson with a steal. TIMBERS GOAL! It's Urruti! Johnson's steal led him to dribble left. He found Zakuani, who fed Urruti in the box. Urruti with a spin and toe-pokes it top-shelf past Clark, who had no chance on that one. Timbers lead, 1-0 after a picture-perfect start for Portland.
10th—Urruti looking confident, pressuring Jimenez and taking the ball away. That springs a counter and Urruti eventually finds Nagbe, who fires a shot low. Clark is there to gather it in, but it's certainly all Portland here early.
11th—Crew with a free kick in a dangerous spot, especially with Higuain standing over it. He hits it low and right, and Ricketts is there to field it. Goal kick, Portland.
13th—Timbers with a corner. Valeri sends it in and it's over the pack. Nagbe chips it back into the scrum for Valeri, but offside is called. Valeri knocks it into the net anyway, and Claer does not appreciate that.
14th—CREW GOAL! A spectacular goal by Higuain! He was running at full speed and caught Ricketts a step off his line with a perfect chip from 30 yards out. Wow, what an outstanding goal there, and we're tied at 1.
16th—Trapp plays a nice ball into Jimeniz, who runs with a head of steam into the box. Kah is there to knock it away, and it'll be a corner. It comes in, but Kah is again there to head it away. No danger.
17th—Zakuani takes a bit of a knock and he's down on the turf. No contact that I saw, but Zakuani is holding his hamstring...Now back on his feet and jogging it out.
19th—Arrieta gets ahead and runs into the box, but RICKETTS COMES OFF HIS LINE TO KNOCK IT AWAY. A risky venture, for sure, but Ricketts gets there right in time and saves a goal.
24th—Nice run of possession for Portland leads to a corner. Valeri sends it in, but Clark is there to rise up an grab it. On the counter, Higuain flips it toward Jimenez, who attempts a shot, but there's not much on it and Ricketts fields it easily.
28th—Powell is doubled over and down on the pitch. He's holding his stomach area, it looks like. Timbers are thin at that position—not a lot of options on the bench.
29th—Powell back on his feet and checking back in. Maybe he just got the wind knocked out of him. Timbers fans looking at a thin bench know the feeling.
31st—Two straight corners for Portland, but nothing comes of 'em.
34th—RED CARD FOR POWELL. He came in waaaaay late after a heavy touch and upended Barson something fierce. Reckless challenge, without a doubt. He's outta here, and Portland will be down a man. On his way off the pitch, Williams has a few words and a finger point for him, and Urruti grabs him and pushes him away. Williams gets a yellow for his trouble.
36th—Timbers will make a sub to shore up the defense. Villafina comes on for Urruti.
37th—Kah called for a foul about 25 yards out, straightaway. Dangerous spot for Higuain. He sends in a spinner, and Futty heads it away.
38th—Columbus with a chance as Arrieta with a run along the left side of the box. He fires a shot, but it's in the side netting.
40th—Higuain shown a yellow card after giving a pretty good shoulder to Johnson. The Timbers captain danced around him a couple times and Higuain might've just had enough. Johnson back on his feet—no harm, but a foul.
43rd—Valeri sends a dangerous ball into the box that's knocked out to Johnson. He volleys it back in, but it's wide left of the goal.
45th—Valeri with a lovely backheel to find Nagbe. He's mugged by Tchani, and it'll be a free kick from 40 yards out. Sent in and cleared. Zakuani crosses to Valeri, who fires, but his shot is immediately blocked.
Four minutes of stoppage...Arrieta on a counter, 1-on-1 with Jewsbury, and the Club Cap'n wins the battle. Textbook D there from Jewsbury there...Tchani chips one into the box for Arrieta, but Villafina goes up and heads it away. The two collide, but no call...Corner for Columbus after Barson sends one in for Jimenez. Higuain sends it in and there's contact between Futty and Gonzalez, and A PENALTY KICK IS CALLED....Higuain lining it up. He goes low and left and Ricketts goes right. CREW GOAL. Columbus leads, 2-1.
HALFTIME: Timbers down a man and a goal. Crew lead 2-1 and fans are raining boos on the pitch. (Anyone saying "Boooo-urns"? No?) Some stats: Timbers outshot Crew 8-7. Columbus had 51% of the possession and won 53.5% of the duels so far.
SECOND HALF: Timbers headed toward their Army...and we're back at it!
49th—Parsons with a drive from 25 out that sends Ricketts diving to his right. The big keepers gets to it, and it'll be a goal kick.
53rd—Higuain with a great ball into the box after getting past Zemanski. He plays for Jimenez, who HITS THE POST! Ricketts had no chance on that one, but luckily for Portland, it's off the woodwork.
55th—Valeri pops one toward the goal after a throw-in and Johnson is there, but Clark is taller. He grabs it and springs a counter. Eventually, Meram with a touch into the box for Arrieta, but Kah is there to defend.
60th—Gonzalez is down at midfield. Timbers Army booing again. Not sure why, but ALL THE FEELS ARE COMING OUT. Gonzalez back on his feet—miraculously—just before the stretcher comes out. Now getting a decidedly un-erotic calf massage on the sideline.
65th—Zakuani with a cross that's knocked away, and that looked pretty close to a handball. Johnson and Zemanski thought so, too, and they're arguing hysterically with the ref. Zakuani on his knees with a "WHYYYYYYYYYY?????" look on his face.
66th—Some nice buildup for Portland leads to a cross from Villafina, but it's into the gut of Clark. Nobody but the Crew keeper could've gotten to that cross, so yeah, that's just gotta be better.
69th—Timbers on a counter led by Nagbe. He dribbles past midfield and finds Valeri, who has one from 35 yards out. Well high of the goal, though, and we'll have a goal kick.
70th—Timbers with some great buildup led by Zemanski, who beautifully crosses in front for Johnson. He gets a foot on it, but CLARK WITH A DIVING SAVE! Best one of the night for either side after the Timbers show a little life.
73rd—Free kick coming from about 35 out after Nagbe draws a foul. Lots of wrestling in the box. Valeri sends it in and Futty gets a head on it, but it's wide. Goal kick, Crew.
74th—Nagbe with a little give-and-go with Valeri. Nagbe ends up with it in the box and fires, but Clark is there. Timbers with some momentum here.
75th—Two subs: For the Crew, Anor for Meram. For the Timbers, Fernandez for Zemanski. Very nice game from Zemanski, who stepped up in the absence of Chara. Timbers going for it here with this offensive sub.
77th—Valeri with a long ball ahead to Zakuani, who's fouled just outside the box. Big free kick coming.
78th—Johnson takes a shot, but it's over the bar. Keeper shows Clark a yellow...for something. Wasting time, maybe?
80th—TIMBERS GOAL! Will Johnson! Jewsbury with a steal in the box and he finds Johnson, who blasts it home for the equalizer. We're tied at 2.
81st—CREW GOAL! What. Finlay—who came on just after the goal—takes into the box and fires a shot off Futty's shoulder. Ricketts was diving to his right, but the ball deflected back into the net. Tough break for Portland. Crew lead, 3-2.
84th—Adi comes on for Villafina. Porter rolling the dice with his newest addition.
85th—TIMBERS GOAL! Valeri with a nice looking free kick into the box for Adi, who heads it toward the lower right corner. Fernandez gets on the other end of it and drives it home for the equalizer. The ref raised his flag, but put it down, and the Crew are livid about his change of heart. Arrieta shown a yellow card in the scrum.
86th—Crew almost do it again! Ball sent in for Arrieta, who gets a piece of it. Ricketts forced to dive and knock it over the line. Corner comes in and is cleared away. This game is now officially nuts.
Four minutes of stoppage...Both teams really pushing for the goal...Ricketts sends a ball all the way down to the box. It bounces around and Finlay with a pass right to Valeri. He hammers it, but it's low and left. Tired legs, no doubt...Nagbe with a long run and passes ahead to Adi, but it's too far...Valeri out wide. He chips it into the box for Adi, but Clark gets there first....Timbers have a free kick and there's some arguing going. Valeri kicks it into the box for Jewsbury. He dances and puts it in the net, but is called offside? Close call if so.
FULL TIME: It's a 3-3 draw. The Timbers once again find a way to equalize late and earn a point. Not a win, but not a bad result for playing down a man most of the match.