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Late goal from Santiago Moreno earns Portland a point in the tight playoff race in 1-1 draw at Columbus.

PMG PHOTO: DIEGO G. DIAZ - Santiago Moreno, pictured dribbling up field against Seattle, delivered a dramatic tying goal in the dying seconds on Sunday to give the Portland Timbers a 1-1 draw at Columbus.In an unlikely finish, a missile from 22 yards by Santiago Moreno earned the Portland Timbers a 1-1 draw on Sunday with the Columbus Crew in Ohio, a result that — for the moment — lifts Portland to fifth place in the MLS Western Conference.


Crew, 36th minute — Kevin Molino scores. After a switch of play from right to left, Molino's cutting run left Dairon Asprilla flat footed on a well-worked combination with Lucas Zelarayán.

Timbers, 90+5 — Santiago Moreno's half-volley from 22 yards finds the right side of the net after a scramble in and around the box with the Timbers desperate to try to tie the game. The Moreno's first touch caught teammate Bill Tuiloma in the face before dropping for Moreno to strike.

Big picture: The Timbers delivered a gut punch to their former coach as Caleb Porter's Crew continued a trend of giving up goals in the final moments of matches. The point means Portland is three points ahead of eighth-place Real Salt Lake with two matches left including a final-day visit to Salt Lake. The Timbers are just a point behind fourth-place Nashville. The top seven teams make the playoffs, the top four play at least once at home.

The Timbers have a challenging final home match on Oct. 2 against an LAFC squad that could still be chasing the Supporters Shield before going to Salt Lake.

Desperate times … : The Timbers spent the first half sitting deep and letting Columbus possess the ball. While they gave up a goal on a pretty nice switch of play (though Dairon Asprilla was caught ball watching on the decisive pass), Portland was the better team after halftime. Only a couple of strong saves from Columbus goalkeeper Eloy room denied chances for Yimmi Chara and Bill Tuiloma (from a corner) kept Portland off the scoreboard.

In his debut off the bench, Juan Mosquera was involved in the tying play, twice delivering balls into the 18-yard box — the second of them eventually resulting in Moreno's blast.

Flipping the switch: Once again, the Timbers were much better in the second half than the first. That speaks in part to tactical adjustments at halftime — Moreno and Asprilla switched positions late in the first half with Moreno moving to right wingback. Some of the slower first halves on the road is likely tactical with Portland wanting to be defensively sound against an aggressive opponent. But Portland's tendency to get pinned back early can make their job tougher.

"Just a difficult first half in which we still gotta give credit to the guys (for) the way we defended," Savarese said. "But, you know, we're more like the team that we should so in the second half."

The back line: Though he didn't always look comfortable, Larrys Mabiala hung in there while playing the right side of Portland's three centerback alignment in the absence of suspended Zac McGraw. True, the goal came from that space, but the breakdown appeared to be Asprilla failing to track Molino's run in to the box. … Mosquera made his Timbers debut, coming on for Mabiala in the 82nd minute. Coach Giovanni Savarese said he's been impressed with the 20-year-old's calmness on the ball in training and noted that Mosquera did a good job handling two different assignments, initially as a right-side center back then when he was pushed forward in the closing minutes.

Them's the breaks: Columbus thought it had a second goal in the 81st minute, but a very narrow offside decision that appeared correct went the Timbers way and Derrick Entienne's goal was erased. … Each team had a shout for a penalty kick in the second half, but neither was given.

Next Timbers match: LAFC at Portland, noon, Sunday, Oct. 2 (ABC/KATU).

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