The Portland Timbers and Colorado Rapids shared points at Providence Park on Wednesday night in an end-to-end, high-octane encounter. Sebastián Blanco's stoppage-time equalizer rescued a vital point for the 10-man Timbers, keeping both sides firmly in the Western Conference race for Audi MLS Cup Playoff berths.
While both sides still have at least 10 matches to play in the regular season, Wednesday night’s encounter certainly had the feel of postseason soccer. In front of a raucous crowd, chances flowed on both ends and the tackles came in fast and furious.
One such tackle cost Portland a man just before halftime. Bill Tuiloma, arguably the first half's best player in a new right-back role, stepped on the ankle of Mark-Anthony Kaye before putting in a brutal two-footed challenge on Braian Galván to give referee Armando Villarreal his pick of second yellow offenses.
After the break, Colorado made their man advantage pay. Jonathan Lewis continued his resurgent form, getting onto a clever layoff from Andre Shinyashiki to tap home from close range and redeeming himself from an open-goal miss in the first half. The strike ended a 395-minute shutout streak for Portland ‘keeper Steve Clark, the longest in their MLS history.
The visitors’ lead was short-lived, however. Just three minutes later, Felipe Mora found the net for the 10th time this season. The striker held his ground at the back post and pounced on a half yard of space to head home service from Dario Zuparić.
Colorado appeared to have stolen a late winner through substitute Michael Barrios in the 87th minute. The diminutive winger struck an audacious (and likely unintentional) effort from the right touchline that curled past Clark, kissing the far post on its way into goal.
Once again, Portland answered immediately. Despite playing down a man for the entire second half, the Timbers were dangerous all night and looked the more threatening of the two sides for long stretches. Their patience and persistence got rewarded in the 91st minute. Sebastián Blanco made a late run into the box and tapped home a deflected cross to earn a vital and improbable point.
- THE BIG PICTURE: While both sides certainly would have loved three points from this one, a point isn't a bad result for either. Portland continue to bounce back from their early-season struggles, and the draw keeps them in fifth place, one point ahead of LAFC. Colorado, meanwhile, continue to be formidable on the road. They've lost just three times in 12 matches away from Dick's Sporting Goods Park, and tonight's draw keeps them firmly seeking the West's top spot.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Sebastian Blanco's late equalizer stunned the Rapids and sent Providence Park into jubilation. Blanco's goal was a deserved reward and a testament to Portland's commitment to attack, even while down a man.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Sebastián Blanco showed why he's one of the best in the league and continues to be a crucial part of Portland's push back into the playoff race. He consistently found pockets of space as Colorado pushed forward, and opened up the game with intelligent movement and decisive passing. His goal capped off an already excellent performance.