Portland Timbers: Another Point Gained Against The Columbus Crew-3 Takeaways

The Portland Timbers are slowly figuring out their offensive rhythms. Saturday night's draw against defending MLS Cup defending Champions, the Columbus Crew was yet another sign of the progress & the work to come.
Apr 20, 2024; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Portland Timbers forward Felipe Mora (9) scores a goal against
Apr 20, 2024; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Portland Timbers forward Felipe Mora (9) scores a goal against / Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Timbers began a three game road trip with a stop against the defending MLS Cup Champions at Lower.com Field. The Columbus Crew are one of the more well coached teams in MLS, with bought in & fine tuned players. And with a bolstered fanbase & a shiny new stadium, securing a road win over the Crew could be a highlight of the season.

Fairy tales don't always come true though, even if when those happy endings are right in your grasp. The Timbers felt this Saturday as they led their hosts for more than two thirds of the match. Leading the crew 2-1 before a Hail Mary style goal kick from a defensive player well away from goal leveled things up.

It was a tough blow for a team that showed improvements against one of Major League Soccer's best. But it was nearly taken away in the blink of an eye with a last minute Cucho Hernandez free kick that hit the uprights & nearly used James Pantemis' back as a pinball bumper.

Even with the points dropped on the road, there are always takeaways from a road draw, here are my three.

Getting Santi Moreno Involved in More Scoring Bolsters The Attack

The first Portland goal to open up the scoring appeared like it almost wasn't. A near four on two opportunity at one point, after a masterful Evander spin move that caused two Columbus players to crash into each other & free up plenty of space.

After that the ball glided over to Felipe Mora who had already scored his fourth goal in as many games about forty minutes prior. Mora could have easily gotten greedy & attempted the shot but with tight coverage & goal keeper awareness. But an extra tap to Evander who himself could have taken the shot opted for one more pass to a to an advancing Moreno.

Moreno received the pass with a little too much power, but he managed to take a first touch, rearrange his possession & knock it right past Patrick Schulte.

The Timbers still seem a ways away from having a dominant goal scorer similar to the days of old when Diego Valeri was challenging for Golden Boots. Jonathan Rodriguez hasn't nestled into his role just yet in Portland.

With only 1 goal & 1 assist in in five matches thus far, it appears Portland's scoring is going to be spread out among several members of their attacking front. Getting Moreno his second goal of the season & his first in six weeks is the right morale booster for a player the club will need in form if they hope to climb back up the Western Conference standings.

Improvement Against MLS Powerhouses Is Needed If A Return to the Playoffs Is the Goal

Walking away with just one point is a bit of a gut punch, especially after leading a giant chunk of the game on the road against the league's defending champs. But rewind to the end of March when the Timbers dropped points in three straight weeks.

Two totally different feelings, especially against some of Major League Soccer's best in LAFC last week & now the Columbus Crew. Both of whom battled it out for the league title last fall in a clash that saw one of the league's oldest but most successful clubs. With one of the league's newest with maybe the most potential having made appearances in the last two finals, securing their first title in 2022 at home.

It's a great sign & between some great saves by Pantemis & Portland's backline combined with some favorable hits off of the woodwork.

Defense Is Improving, Even With Two Goals Robbing Portland Of A Quality Road Win

Looking at the score line would tell you both sides were equal, or that one side got lucky enough to salvage a single point. When you see the goals Columbus put in the back of the net & the last second free kick that nearly sent the Timbers back home empty handed, you'll see Saturday's match was more of the latter.

The Crew played rather dominantly, with 24 total shots to Portland's 7. With 10 of those shots being on target. Not to mention 66% possession by the hosting side.

The Crew's leveler came in the 74th minute from an absolute banger from Steven Moreira. The right-back had a ball played centrally to him by Aidan Morris. Which he struck with gusto from a spot closer to the midfield than the penalty mark right past Pantemis into the net.

Apr 20, 2024; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Crew midfielder Darlington Nagbe (6), defender Steven Moreira
Apr 20, 2024; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Crew midfielder Darlington Nagbe (6), defender Steven Moreira / Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA

It was a near impossible stop coming from a player who scores about one goal every season or so. Then you take a look at Cucho Hernandez' s goal in the 51st minute. Which was more of a testament to Columbus' offensive movement & their star strikers surgical precision than the Timbers' defense.

In short, the day's results could have been worse. Earning a point on the road will be very important come Fall when every point & result matters.

Especially when that point was against a strong Columbus Crew squad who are in the running to become the first MLS club to win back-to-back titles since the LA Galaxy in 2011 & 2012.

There is still plenty of soccer left to be played, but after dazzling fans with a strong opening to the season. The Timbers are addressing issues & making changes early on.

Which is all fans can hope for as the club closes out April with their second straight road win, this time against LAFC at Banc of California Stadium.