by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - The Portland Timbers celebrate after Gaston Fernandez (10) strikes with the tying goal Saturday night in the final moments of a 1-1 season-opening draw with Philadelphia at Providence Park.The match was all but over. If any of the announced sellout crowd of 20,674 had decided to get out of the driving rain and head for the Providence Park exits, no one would have blamed them.

The Portland Timbers were on their way to a disappointing 1-0 loss in their MLS season opener against the Philadelphia Union.

Then, in the final breath of the game, the Timbers pulled off a miracle. Portland striker Gaston Fernandez knocked in a header, and Portland stole a 1-1 draw from the jaws of defeat.

“It was the last kick of the game,” Timbers coach Caleb Porter said. “I give the guys a lot of credit for pulling out a point. Almost everyone thought this game was over. That’s what this team is capable of.”

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Timbers fans rejoice on account of their team's 1-1 draw.After a shot by substitute striker Steve Zakuani deflected off a Union player and went out of bounds, Portland midfielder Will Johnson took a very quick corner kick.

He sent the ball into the 6-yard box. The Union were sleeping and left Fernandez unmarked. The ball bounced off a Union defender’s foot and directly to Fernandez, who flicked in the tying goal.

The score kept the Timbers unbeaten in home openers since Portland joined Major League Soccer three years ago.

Fernandez, who does not speak English, was unavailable for comment after the match because the Timbers did not have a translator.

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Gaston Fernandez holds up his log after the MLS season begins for Portland with one point against the Philadelphia Union.The Union (0-1-0, 1 points) took a 1-0 lead in the 64th minute when the Timbers failed to defend a Philadelphia corner kick.

Union striker Cristian Maidana lined up for the corner on the right side. He sent a ball to the top of the 6-yard-box in the middle of the pitch.

Philadelphia defender Raymon Gaddis got his head on the ball and redirected it to the left of the box. Striker Jack McInerney, three yards from goal, got his head on the ball and sent it to the right of Portland goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts and into the

back of the net.

“Cross, header and then the guy at the 6 headed it in,” Ricketts said.

As is their habit, the Timbers controlled possession, keeping the ball .598

percent of the match. Portland outshot the Union 15-10. But while Philadelphia put six shots on goal, the Timbers sent just two shots on frame.

“We were the better team between the boxes,” Porter said. “We’ve got to be better in the box.”

The Timbers were a much more dangerous side throughout the half, controlling .595 percent of the possession and outshooting Philadelphia 8-6. The most impressive thing for the Timbers was that much of Portland’s possession was in the final third and the Timbers were able to keep the ball close to the Philadelphia goal for long periods.

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Timbers midfielder Jack Jewsbury (left) and defender Norberto Paparatto go for a loose ball against Philadelphia.While the Timbers were unable to find a goal, they had the Union on their heels throughout the first 45 minutes.

The Timbers almost got on the board early. In the fourth minute, Fernandez took a corner kick from the left side. He sent a perfect ball into the box that found Portland defender Pa Modou Kah unmarked on the right side of the 6-yard box.

Kah dove for the ball and got his head on it, but the ball banged off the right post.

The Union nearly went up a goal in the 20th minute. Maidana fired a bullet from the top of the 18-yard box. The ball was destined for the back of the net before Ricketts made a diving save.

“The goalkeeper’s job is to make saves, and he did that today,” Porter said, of Ricketts. “He did a nice job.”

Philadelphia almost scored in the 33rd minute, when Ricketts misread a ball and left the goal unattended. Portland averted disaster when defender Norberto Paparatto cleared the ball on the line.

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Union forward Jack McInerney (left) pulls Portland Timbers forward Frederic Piquionne's jersey in the second half.As the second half began, Philadelphia became the aggressors. The Union pushed into the Timbers' defensive third, attacking the goal numerous times before finally converting the corner kick to take a 1-0 lead in the 64th minute.

After the goal, Portland tried to move the ball up the pitch and throw numbers forward to find the equalizer. Desperately wanting to steal three points from the Timbers on Portland’s pitch, though, the Union dropped numbers, making it impossible for Portland to get a clean look at goal —¬†until the Union made the major mistake of thinking the match was over before the final TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri reacts after missing a shot in the second half.

  • by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Timbers defender Mamadou Danso (98) and Timbers midfielder Maximiliano Urruti (37) go up for a header.