SOCCER

Portland Timbers pull off a stunning 1-1 draw late on the road at Columbus Crew

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The Portland Timbers would not be deprived of a result this crucial end-of-season weekend. And they have their dazzling young midfielder Santiago Moreno to thank for a point on the road.

Portland pulled off a 1-1 draw at the Columbus Crew on Sunday afternoon thanks to a flare of a goal from Moreno in the dying seconds of stoppage time. The Timbers (11-8-13, 46 points) move up to 5th in the Western Conference with the draw, one point ahead of Minnesota United and one point behind Nashville SC with two games left on their schedule.

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“We weren’t as good in the first half at keeping the ball,” Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said. “We defended well. We didn’t allow them to create much in the first half. … Overall, we managed them very well defensively. The problem is that we didn’t keep the ball and we didn’t make good decisions by changing the point of attack, by getting behind.

Columbus dominated in the first half, outscoring the Timbers 62-38 and outshooting them 9-3.

The Crew’s attack was often sparked by Cucho Hernandez, who started from the second minute with an open look as he sailed over the crossbar. In the 10th minute, Diego Chara fouled Hernandez, creating a dangerous free-kick chance that ultimately proved empty for Columbus.

Two yellow cards were handed out in the 10th and 25th minutes: the first to Aidan Morris of Columbus for his challenge on Diego Chara, and the second to Yimmi Chara for an accidental kick in the face of a Columbus defender.

In the 28th minute, Hernandez got back to work and fired a long shot that narrowly missed the target. A minute later, at the other end, Dairon Asprilla missed a header on the wire from Sebastian Blanco – a rare attacking opportunity for Portland squandered.

Columbus finally broke through to score in the 36th minute. Kevin Molino made a run past a frozen Asprilla, and with no backup behind the Portland right winger that day, Molino scored easily to put the Crew ahead 1-0.

Asprilla snatched a long off-target shot in the 39th for Portland, and Yimmi Chara mishandled a fine pass from Blanco in the 44th. Before heading into the half-time break after being heavily outplayed, Portland added another yellow card as Bill Tuiloma took one.

“We knew it was going to be a tough game, and I think we saw that in the first minutes of the game,” Moreno said in Spanish. “Thanks to our coach’s instructions, we were able to adapt to what he saw that maybe we couldn’t see on the pitch after the first half. We had the determination to score a point.

Portland came out in the second half with a heightened sense of urgency, moving into more promising scoring positions. In the 58th minute, Moreno sent a perfect ball to Yimmi Chara, but the shot was saved well by Columbus goalkeeper Eloy Room.

Room made another impressive save a minute later when Eryk Williamson’s corner kick met Tuiloma’s header, who put it on target. Moreno also had a pair of corners hit by Room in the 62nd minute.

Larrys Mabiala – replacing suspended Zac McGraw – received a yellow card in the 66th minute. Portland brought on Jaroslaw Niezgoda for Blanco in the 68th minute, and Moreno picked up his own yellow card in the 71st.

Hernandez had a pair of chances in the 75th and 78th minutes, neither of which found the back of the net. In the 81st, Molino appeared to score Columbus’ second goal, but he was just a hair’s breadth from offside.

Portland brought in a trio of substitutes in the 82nd minute: new signing Juan Mosquera for Mabiala (Mosquera’s debut), Marvin Loria for Yimmi Chara and Cristhian Paredes for Williamson. In the 88th minute, they brought in Nathan Fogaça for Diego Chara, hoping to add even more attacking prowess.

The Timbers had their share of chances on the stretch, but it was Moreno’s curling beauty from outside the box in the 95th minute – just as the referee was about to whistle and whistle. ending the game – which took the game to a stunning 1-1 final score line.

“It’s always pure happiness for me to score a goal, even more so in these circumstances,” said Moreno. “We worked so hard during the game to be able to score. I always just want to help my teammates and have fun on the pitch, and we managed to do that.

The Timbers have some time to breathe and soak up that game-breaking result ahead of their next game, a home game against LAFC on Oct. 2. Kickoff is scheduled for noon at Providence Park (TV on ABC).

— Ryan Clarke, rclarke@oregonian.com, Twitter: @RyanTClarke

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