Columbus Crew SC stumbled to a second consecutive home defeat on Saturday night, sending the largest crowd in almost a decade home disappointed. Kei Kamara’s league-leading 22nd goal of the season proved insufficient as the Portland Timbers emerged victorious by a 2-1 scoreline. Fanendo Adi scored both goals for the visitors.
The build up to Saturday’s game was all about team history, with the club revealing the results of a fan vote on the top moments from the Crew’s first 20 years. The capacity of MAPFRE Stadium was increased for the occasion, and as a result the team posted its largest crowd since 2007. The crowd – announced as 22,719 – was the 13th-largest all time and ninth-largest since moving out of Ohio Stadium in 1999. It was also their third consecutive sellout, which had not been achieved since the team’s first three home games in 1996.
Unfortunately, the team’s on-field performance could not match the success in the stands. Portland followed the pattern of FC Dallas before them, hassling Columbus at every opportunity and preventing the team from implementing their usual style of play.
After Columbus exploited Portland’s left flank over the game’s opening minutes, the first controversy came in the eighth minute. Darlington Nagbe appeared to be taken down in the penalty area by Wil Trapp, whose sliding tackle missed contact on the ball, but referee Silviu Petrescu made no call.
Portland, which took the game’s first six corner kicks over the first half hour, also had the first clear-cut scoring chance. Diego Valeri’s dipping shot from outside the penalty area was destined for the upper corner of the goal, but Steve Clark was able to slide over and palm the ball out of bounds.
The game’s first goal came in the 28th minute. A minute after Kei Kamara’s header flashed over Adam Kwarasey’s crossbar, a giveaway from Waylon Francis gifted Portland possession and pressure. Nagbe drew Michael Parkhurst slightly out of position, and picked out Adi behind him at the top of the area. Adi’s shot snuck under the onrushing Clark, silencing the sizable crowd.
The teams traded scoring chances again around the 35th minute, with Kamara feeding Higuain for a tight angle shot that just rose over the crossbar. Moments later, a giveaway from Tony Tchani gave Diego Valeri an opening for a chipped shot, but Clark was able to backpedal and touch the ball over the bar.
Columbus equalized late in the first half. After winning a corner kick from the industry of Tchani and Finlay, Kei Kamara beat his defender to the service, heading his shot down and into the gap between Kwarasey and the near post.
Minutes after the second half started, however, Columbus once again found themselves down a goal. Again it was Adi who provided the finishing touch, this time from service by Rodney Wallace. Wallace came down the right flank, beating Michael Parkhurst to a pass from Valeri on the right edge of the area. Wallace’s pass found Adi a few yards closer to goal, whose one-touch shot came just before Tyson Wahl could intercept and nestled just inside the far post.
The bulk of the second half then found Columbus searching for another equalizer – but the home team was repeatedly undone by small margins. Ethan Finlay thought he had scored in the 64th minute, but was ruled to have come from an offside position on a deflection by Kei Kamara. Justin Meram saw his headed attempt flash wide off a corner kick two minutes later. Numerous other passes and touches in the attacking half went just narrowly awry.
Portland, for their part, played the part of road spoiler to perfection. They wasted time at every opportunity, but never so blatantly that they earned a yellow card – at least until Adam Kwarasey was cautioned in stoppage time. They played just physically enough to unbalance the Columbus players, but were able to generally stop short of the types of plays that saw George Fochive see yellow for a dangerous kick on Federico Higuain.
Despite putting Cedrick, Hector Jimenez, and Mohammed Saeid as substitutes into the midfield, Columbus was able to register only a single shot over the final 25 minutes.
The loss comes on a weekend when most of the top Eastern Conference teams suffered poor results. New York Red Bulls and DC United both lost as well, while the New England Revolution were held to a draw by the Philadelphia Union. As a result, the top of the standings remain largely unchanged. New York now leads by a point over both the Revolution and Crew SC, and the Red Bulls have played two fewer games. DC United trails the leaders by three points. The gap to fifth and sixth place – held by Toronto and Montreal – has also shrunk, placing the six playoff teams within six points of each other.
Columbus has three games yet to play in the regular season, all against Eastern Conference opponents. Their next two contests come on the road as they visit New York next weekend and Toronto after a one-week break. The season finale will come at MAPFRE Stadium as DC United visits on October 25th.
Timeline of events
2′ Corner kick, Portland (right side – short, cross off target)
10′ Corner kick, Portland (left side – headed clear by Tchani at near post)
17′ Corner kick, Portland (right side – cleared out for second corner)
18′ Corner kick, Portland (right side – cleared)
22′ Corner kick, Portland (left side – foul called on Portland)
24′ Corner kick, Portland (right side – foul called on Portland)
28′ 0-1 Fanendo Adi (Darlington Nagbe)
34′ Corner kick, Columbus (left side – headed clear)
37′ Corner kick, Portland (left side – headed clear by Wahl)
41′ Corner kick, Portland (left side – headed clear by Parkhurst)
43′ Corner kick, Columbus (right side – goal by Kei Kamara)
43′ 1-1 Kei Kamara (Federico Higuain)
44′ Corner kick, Columbus (right side – headed clear before near post)
46+ Caution, Diego Chara (persistent infringement)
50′ 1-2 Fanendo Adi (Rodney Wallace)
56′ Corner kick, Portland (right side – shot blocked by Kamara)
56′ Corner kick, Portland (left side – foul called on Portland)
58′ Corner kick, Portland (left side – caught by Clark)
60′ Corner kick, Columbus (right side – caught by Kwarasey)
60′ Corner kick, Columbus (left side – headed clear)
65′ Cedrick Mabwati replaces Ethan Finlay
65′ Mohammed Saeid replaces Tony Tchani
66′ Corner kick, Columbus (left side – out for a corner)
67′ Corner kick, Columbus (right side – headed wide by Meram)
75′ Lucas Melano replaces Fanendo Adi
81′ Dairon Asprilla replaces Rodney Wallace
81′ Hector Jimenez replaces Justin Meram
87′ George Fochive replaces Diego Valeri
88′ Caution, Federico Higuain (professional foul on Jorge Villafana)
92+ Caution, George Fochive (professional foul on Federico Higuain)
95+ Caution, Adam Kwarasey (time wasting)
Columbus Crew SC
Steve Clark, Harrison Afful, Michael Parkhurst, Tyson Wahl, Waylon Francis, Wil Trapp, Tony Tchani (Mohammed Saeid 65′), Ethan Finlay (Cedrick Mabwati 65′), Federico Higuain, Justin Meram (Hector Jimenez 81′), Kei Kamara
Brad Stuver, Chris Klute, Emanuel Pogatetz, Aaron Schoenfeld
Adam Kwarasey, Alvas Powell, Nat Borchers, Liam Ridgewell, Jorge Villafana, Diego Chara, Jack Jewsbury, Darlington Nagbe, Diego Valeri (George Fochive 87′), Rodney Wallace (Dairon Asprilla 81′), Fanendo Adi (Lucas Melano 75′)
Jake Gleeson, Norberto Paparatto, Taylor Peay, Maximiliano Urruti