The Timbers opened first with a smooth direct attack with the Crew SC defense opened up by an excellent Sebastian Blanco through ball that put Dairon Asprilla one on one against Waylon Francis. Aspirlla finished far post in the fourth minute to put the visitors up early.
Columbus would respond quickly with two goals in the following 15 minutes to take the lead. The first goal came off significant pressure from Crew SC to force a corner. Federico Higuain flighted a ball into the six yard box toward Ola Kamara. The forward nodded the ball into the scrum in front of Jake Gleeson and Justin Meram cleaned up the loose ball to tie the game in the 11th minute.
In the 19th minute, Higuain would conjure up some magic with a perfectly weighted pass from midfield to spring Kamara. Gleeson came out to try and collect, but failed to come close. That left an angle for Kamara to chip the Timbers keeper and give Crew SC the lead.
The game would remain wide open throughout the half with both sides pushing forward, Columbus piling on pressure and Portland countering dangerously. Despite the possession edge, the Timbers would level just before halftime as Fanendo Adi would dig out an Alvas Powell cross to beat Zack Steffen at the whistle.
The second half started the way the first ended, with Portland on the front foot. Adi would blast a point blank header that forced a Steffen save. That would be the best Portland chance of the rest of the game.
After the speed of the first half, the second half of the game opened up as the teams appeared to fatigue. Touches became looser and passes went a little off, but Columbus would continue to push and finally get a winner. Harrison Afful would fire in a cross from the right. Kamara pushed a shot that forced Gleeson into a save that left a sloppy rebound. Rookie Niko Hansen would finish, scoring the game winner on his debut.
Unlike the horrors of 2016, Columbus would close out the game even after the loss of Jonathan forced rookie Alex Crognale into the match.
When it was almost over
Higuain zipped in a cross that Kamara headed just over the goal in the 81st minute. The game had become strung out with neither side creating many solid opportunities throughout the second half. Both teams looked gassed after the end to end action and a tie appeared to be in the offing.
When it was over
After Hansen’s goal gave Crew SC the lead, Artur took the ball into the corner and hold the ball. Columbus was able to burn off time as the clock rolled through the 90th minute. Portland would push forward, but not able to put a shot on target during the four minutes of stoppages.
Back to the 4-2-3-1
Gregg Berhalter shifted back to the team's usual formation with Jonathan returning and Columbus continued to show some fluidity against the patchwork Portland defense. They didn’t consistently create high quality chances, but they put the Timbers under pressure and they cracked.
Debut for Hansen
Rookie Niko Hansen made his MLS debut and played 30 minutes in relief of Meram. He had been in the game day roster the first three games, but hadn’t had a chance to make an appearance.
Crew SC face another unbeaten team as the home stand continues against 2-0-0 Orlando next Saturday at 4:00 PM at MAPFRE. Columbus will hope to hand out another “first loss” after the win against Portland.