Columbus Crew SC fell in the 2016 MLS season opener 2-1 to the Portland Timbers, the same scoreline as MLS Cup. Diego Valeri and Fanando Adi tallied for the home side. Federico Higuain replied with a magical overhead kick.
Crew SC started the game well as they held the ball well, but weren't able to conjure a goal. They peppered the Timbers goal with five shots through the first 20 minutes. Testing Adam Kwarasey once.
Portland was able to strike off of a Valeri free kick from the left side in the 23rd minute off a set piece. Valeri drove in a bending free kick on frame, past a breaking wall that screened Steve Clark, to put the Timbers up. Clark was unable to react until the shot had nearly passed him and the home side grabbed the lead.
Columbus struggled the rest of the half as the confidence seemingly drained from them. Portland was able to break out, often exploiting the area behind Harrison Afful, to get in on Clark's goal. The Timbers got of five shots in the time between the goal and halftime. Crew SC did fire off six, but none were in the box.
Crew SC came out of the locker room after halftime more determined. They were able to pile on the possession in the second half as Portland was content to play on the break. The visitors had trouble breaking down the stalwart Timbers backline. Kei Kamara wasn't able to poke home a close range chance, the best chance of the game so far for the visitors.
Columbus would finally break through, but it required a bit of Pipa magic. With Crew SC pushing forward again, Higuain pushed the ball wide to Finlay. The return cross into the box was deflected. Higuain took a touch to settle and then popped the ball up and hit a perfect bicycle kick to give Columbus the goal that had eluded them the first 65 minutes of the game.
The Timbers reeled as Crew SC pushed forward to get the go ahead goal, but they would again find room on the break and push forward. Dairon Asprilla found space on the left and then fired in a driven shot across goal that forced Clark to parry. Adi prodded the ball to make it 2-1 in the 79th minute.
Higuain nearly tied the game with an 18 year old half volley in the 84th minute, but it pinged off the left post to keep the score 2-1.
Crew SC would add attackers, with Cedrick Mabwati and Conor Casey coming in to grab the tying goal, but the Timbers, like at MLS Cup, were able to close out the game and take all three points in the 2016 MLS regular season opener.
Columbus drops to 0-1-0 with 0 points on the season. They open the home slate against the Philadelphia Union on Saturday, March 12th at 7:30 pm at MAPFRE Stadium.