Wednesday, Sept. 15: Timbers 2, Rapids 2
Goals: Jonathan Lewis converted at the end of a string of one-touch passes, knocking home a feed from Andre Shinyashiki (1-0 Rapids, 64th minute).
Felipe Mora headed in the equalizer on a free kick. Sebastian Blanco's delivery glanced off an open Dario Zuparic right to the unmarked Mora (1-1, 67th minute).
Michael Barrios floated a cross from the right wing end line that spun beyond a leaping Steve Clark, off the far post and into the goal (2-1 Rapids, 87th minute).
Blanco finished with his left foot from nine yards. Dairon Asprilla made a strong run into the left side of the penalty area and tried to pass the ball to Mora at the far post. The ball deflected off of a Colorado player right into Blanco's path (2-2, 90+1).
What it means: Portland 10-10-4 (34 points) remains fifth in the Western Conference. Colorado 12-4-7 (43 points) remains third in the conference.
Reaction: The point may come into play at the end of the season, but what the Timbers really earned Wednesday was another result that should boost confidence throughout the club. To twice come back from down a goal while playing a man down is a testament to the fight that this team has discovered over the last few weeks. Without a doubt, Blanco's skill is a significant piece of the puzzle, but his competitiveness and leadership are equally important for the club.
Blanco on the team's resolve: "(The Rapids) have a very good team, but we fought a lot. We played like a team. We play with commitment and teamwork. I think we won a point today."
Blanco said he had other opportunities to score before putting away the equalizer, so he was glad the ball came to him after he made a run toward the penalty spot as Asprilla was entering the penalty area.
Making the comeback more impressive is that it came against a Rapids team that has been extra stingy in the second half, and especially late in matches.
Felipe Mora continues to produce up top. His 10th MLS goal of the season was the first headed goal allowed this season by the Rapids. Just as notable was his work as the lone option up top after the Timbers went down a man. His ability to win and hold possession, while dropping deep to defend when needed gave the Timbers an important outlet, and a route to generate some threat despite being shorthanded.
"The smartness that (Mora) has, he showed it today," coach Giovanni Savarese said. "Then, for him to be in the right place again to score that 1-1 (goal) was very important. He continued to fight. At moments, yes, he looked tired. But what he gave us through the entire match was very important."
Bill Tuiloma's dismissal in the 42nd minute for a second clumsy yellow-card-worthy foul put the Timbers up against it against a confident and aggressive group of Rapids. But the Timbers hung tough, showing more of the grit that got them three consecutive shutout wins on the road and a shutout streak that reached 395 minutes before Colorado's first goal on Wednesday.
Tuiloma, who has played mostly at central defender this season, started at right back instead of Josecarlos Van Rankin or Pablo Bonilla. Savarese explained that Tuiloma was stationed at right back to help match up with Colorado's three attackers and provide cover against counterattacks while Timbers left back Claudio Bravo was asked to be more assertive in the attack.
The tactics changed, of course, at halftime. Savarese said he and his staff considered three formations: the 4-4-1 they used, a 4-3-2 and a 5-3-1. They decided the 4-3-2 would leave their fullbacks too exposed out wide and the 5-3-1 would leave them outnumbered in midfield.
This was, in essence, the fourth big character result in a row from the Timbers.
"This is our fourth (consecutive) match in which we can see that the team is hungry to want to fight all the way through and try to get into the playoffs," Savarese said.
Missed chances: Before Tuiloma was sent off, each team had chances to forge a lead. The best of them were an 11th-minute Portland opportunity with Blanco in on goal but Rapids' goalkeeper William Yarbrough denying his chip attempt and a 19th-minute shot from an open Jonathan Lewis for Colorado that sailed off target.
Up next: LAFC at Portland, 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 19. The Timbers are fifth in the Western Conference with 34 points, LAFC seventh with 33.
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