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An early lead slips away as Crew SC fall 3-2 to the Timbers

Missed chances cost the Black & Gold on the road again.

MLS: Columbus Crew at Portland Timbers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

For the second time in four days, Columbus Crew SC took the field on the road. After a 0-0 draw at FC Dallas on Saturday, the Black & Gold travelled to the Portland Timbers on Wednesday and, with a bit of makeshift lineup, fell 3-2.

It started off very brightly for Crew SC. After keeping the ball and moving around the backline, Columbus began to push forward. In the sixth minute, the visitors almost found the net on a cross from Pedro Santos cross that connected with the head of striker Patrick Mullins. Unfortunately for the Black & Gold, the forward’s effort was wide.

One minute later though and Crew SC found themselves in the lead on the road. After a coming together of Mullins and David Guzman in the middle of the field, Columbus pounded forward. Santos sprayed the ball wide to left back Milton Valenzuela. The 20 year old hit a cross that was left by Mullins for the run of winger Niko Hansen, who easily fired his shot into the let for the early 1-0 lead.

The away side should have taken a 2-0 lead in the 12th minute. Santos played a through ball for Mullins, who beat the offside trap. Unfortunately, he could not beat goalkeeper Steve Clark, who got a hand on the lofted effort to ensure the breakaway attempt went wide.

Following the bright start, the Black & Gold began to get sloppy playing out of the back. Instead of staying with a more direct approach from the opening minutes, Columbus attempted to pass the ball out and it nearly cost the team a couple of times.

In the 18th minute, the Timbers equalized. Midfielder Andy Pope played a cross into the danger area and Guzman was able to head the ball past Zack Steffen after he was not challenged by any Crew SC defenders.

In the 36th minute, Columbus nearly went back in front. After a series of passes around the top of the penalty box, the ball wound up with Brazilian central midfielder Artur. He fired a right-footed shot that forced a quick reaction save from Clark to put over the net.

On the ensuing corner, Portland was able to clear and counter with speed. Polo rushed into the penalty box and headed the ball into the middle. Valenzuela tried to clear but mishit that ball back to Polo. With Steffen out of his net, the midfielder was able to flick the ball into the goal for the 2-1 lead.

After taking the advantage into the halftime locker room, Portland wasted little time adding to the lead. Just two minutes into the second half, the Timbers hit Crew SC on the counter again. This buildup resulted in Samuel Armenteros with the ball wide in the penalty box. The forward fired a ball across that deflected off Columbus defender Lalas Abubakar and into the net.

Despite trailing, the Black & Gold struggled to build much in the attack. Portland, meanwhile continued to create attacking chances.

In the 62nd minute, head coach Gregg Berhalter decided to make changes. He brought midfielder Luis Argudo, right back Connor Maloney and center back Josh Williams in off the bench Artur, Valenzuela and Santos and moved to a three-man backline.

Following the changes, the Timbers made an effort to take the sting out of the game and close up shop. Although Columbus was able to create a few attacking chances, the visitors were unable to come up with anything of legitimate danger.

That is until the literal final kick, or head, of the ball. In the third minute of stoppage time, Maloney sent a lofted cross into the penalty box and it was fired home by the head of Hansen. It was his first two-goal game as a professional but ultimately too little, too late for the Black & Gold.

Eyes on Saturday

From the starting lineup, it was clear that Gregg Berhalter was looking to ensure his team three points when the Colorado Rapids come to town on Saturday night to close out a three-games-in-eight-day stretch. The Rapids are 1-9-3 on the road and have suffered four straight losses.

With his team down 3-1 in the 62nd minute, Berhalter took out Santos, Valenzuela and Artur, all guys likely to play on the weekend, in order to rest their legs. Getting anything out of this game at Portland would have been nice for the Black & Gold, but Saturday could be a major step to clinching a playoff spot.

The curse of Steve Clark

When Clark was claimed off waivers by the Timbers, he joked that fans in Portland would be happy to have him after he gifted their side a goal early in the 2015 MLS Cup Final while with Crew SC. On Saturday, he became just the second goalkeeper in MLS history to defeat his former team twice in one season with two different clubs. Clark was the starting goalkeeper for D.C. United in a 1-0 win over Columbus on April 14 before he was waived.

The only other MLS goalkeeper to do this was Scott Garlick, who helped both the Tampa Bay Mutiny and the Rapids defeat United in 2001.

What’s next

As mentioned above, Crew SC host the Rapids on Saturday night. That game will be half price night at MAPFRE Stadium and will kickoff at at 7:30 p.m. ET.