Timbers fight Rapids to draw
There was appreciation for the work, and for the point earned from the Portland Timbers after Saturday's 2-2 draw with the Colorado Rapids at Providence Park.
Portland fought through an early injury, a second-half red card and an emotional night for coach Giovanni Savarese to earn a point on a night it might not have.
The Timbers are 7–8-3 (24 points) and remain 10th in the MLS Western Conference, five points behind the playoff line but with games in hand.
The Rapids are 5-10-5 (20 points), 11th in the West.
Portland's goals were gifts from Colorado center backs as the Timbers twice took one-goal leads. The Rapids' Tommy Smith headed the ball into his own goal to put Portland up 1-0 in the 27th minute.
The second Portland goal was a Diego Valeri penalty kick in the 63rd minute after a hand ball in the box by Lalas Abubaker.
The visitors had an answer to each, tying the score at 1-1 less than a minute after Smith's own goal, then knotting it at 2-2 on a wonderful strike by Sam Nicholson in the 73rd minute.
Portland goalkeeper Steve Clark, who made a series of great reaction saves among his six stops, was screened and didn't see the Nicholson shot coming.
Savarese coached the game after his father Carlos died on Saturday in Italy at age 73.
"It was a weird night," Savarese said. "The fans, I thank them for everything they were giving me, how they were supporting me. Thank you to the Timbers Army. Thank you to the organization, to everyone involved for making sure that this night felt special."
Playing their third game in seven days, the Timbers' task became tougher 10 minutes in when left back Marco Farfan had to be replaced because of what looked to be a knee injury. Savarese said Farfan was being evaluated and that he hopes the injury is not serious.
Zarek Valentin came off the bench and wound up playing left back, right back and center back before the night was over.
The flashpoint of a physical match came about 10 minutes after halftime.
Timbers center back Julio Cascante rightfully was shown straight red for a studs-up slide tackle through the back of Rapids striker Kei Kamara.
The Timbers were upset that referee Kevin Stott missed an apparent foul by Colorado's Diego Rubio, who caught the back of Sebastian Blanco's legs as the attacker was about to shoot from the top of the 18-yard box seconds before Cascante's reckless tackle.
Down a man, the Timbers regained the lead in the 62nd minute when Valeri converted his penalty kick after the hand ball foul against the Rapids' Abubaker. Contesting for a deep free kick with Jeremy Ebobisse, the ball hit the center back's outstretched right arm.
The Timbers mobbed Savarese after Smith put the ball past his own goalkeeper, Tim Howard, for a 1-0 lead in the 27th minute. Smith squarely hit Valeri's corner kick into his own goal giving Howard no chance.
The celebration was brief. Colorado's Jonathan Lewis tied the match less than a minute later when the ball fell to him in the left side of the penalty area. Kamara sent a cross from deep on the right wing that Cascante headed out of the 6-yard box. But Cascante's contact wasn't strong enough to clear the danger.
Clark came up big three times in short order late in the first half, twice making reaction stops to deny Kamara on a sequence that started with a difficult stop against Andre Shinyashiki. In the 72nd minute, Clark denied a close-range chance for Nicolas Mezquita.
"You're just reading the play and reacting. I was seeing the ball well," Clark said. "I don't think this was an abnormal performance, I just think my consistent game."
Nicholson's goal came after he sneaked behind Renzo Zambrano, who had shifted from midfield to left back after Cascante's red card. Zambrano recovered, but Nicholson made a nice cut at the top of the box and took a left-footed shot that Clark didn't see.
"I was to my spot early, and I got shielded. I didn't even see it, which is disappointing, because I think I could have saved it," Clark said. "It was a good hit. I think it was an exceptional goal."
Savarese lauded the efforts of players forced out of their natural positions. In hindsight, the coach said he might have been smarter to play Zambrano at right back, where the bench could have helped the rookie in an unfamiliar outside back position.
"I probably should have switched Renzo to the right to have him closer to the bench to guide him a little more, but sometimes in these situations you find out a little bit more about your players," Savarese said. "Renzo and Cristhian Paredes tried to help (at outside backs). At the end of the day, we sacrificed to at least get a point, and I think it's going to be important for us."
Clark agreed with his coach.
"I think that overall we're disappointed. That's the feeling," the goalkeeper said. "But when you take a step back and look at it, it's an important point with going down a man."
The Timbers struggled offensively to create quality chances against the well-organized Rapids. Valeri said the Timbers need to be more patient against teams that sit in defensively.
"Colorado played a good game and forced us to … not be as clear as we wanted with the ball," Valeri said.
The best of Howard's four saves was a full-extention deflection of Blanco's shot from the right side of the penalty area in the first haf.
The busy schedule for the Timbers continues with a Thursday visit from Orlando City — a team that beat Columbus 1-0 on Saturday thanks to the first MLS goal from former Portland Pilot Benji Michel.
One of the biggest cheers of the first half came when U.S. women's national team defender Crystal Dunn was acknowledged on the video board.
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