Two teams scrambling for points left no stone unturned in a wild display as the Portland Timbers and Columbus Crew played to a 3-3 draw Saturday night at a raucous Providence Park.
In a match highlighted by a red card, a penalty kick and three late goals, an 85th minute Gastón Fernández strike rescued a valuable and unlikely point for the Timbers, who were cut down to 10 men in the 34th minute.
A first-half brace by Columbus Crew forward Federico Higuain after a fifth-minute goal by Portland's Maximiliano Urruti seemingly put the Crew in the driver's seat heading into the second half up 2-1.
But Timbers captain Will Johnson first came to the rescue with an equalizer in the 80th minute, which was answered seconds later by Crew substitute Ethan Finlay.
It all led to Fernandez's late heroics, when he was the beneficiary of a friendly bounce off of a Fanendo Adi header following a Diego Valeri free kick from midfield, giving him an easy tap-in on Crew goalkeeper Steve Clark.
Despite just one win in their first 11 games, the Timbers' unbeaten streak is now at four games, moving them out of last place in the Western Conference and into eighth place.
And while Columbus, who were without World Cup hopefuls Michael Parkhurst and Waylon Francis, will be disappointed to give up a late lead up a man, the draw breaks their three-game losing streak and three-game goalless stretch. They move into sixth place in the Eastern Conference with 13 points from 11 games.
It all started off so well for the Timbers.
In the fifth minute, Johnson forced a turnover at midfield, drove the left channel before laying off to Steve Zakuani. He played a quick ball through to Urruti who beat Clark to the top netting.
But then it swung the other way.
Higuain first converted on his cheeky chip shot from 25 yards out in the 14th minute to tie it at 1-1.
A straight red on Alvas Powell in the 34th minute for his tackle on Chad Barson added to the sting. And the Crew capitalized when defender Futty Danso was whistled for a penalty in the area when he fought for the ball with Giancarlo Gonzalez as he attempted to get on the end of a Higuain corner kick in the final moments of second-half stoppage time.
Higuain easily converted on his penalty for the 2-1 halftime lead.
Johnson gave the Timbers life once again in the 80th minute when Valeri played a long ball into the area for Jack Jewsbury. After a brief scrum, the ball fell to Johnson who fired home.
But at the restart, Higuain fed Finlay for a shot that deflected off Danso and past Portland goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts to give the Crew back the lead briefly at 3-2.
Then, in the 85th minute, Valeri's long free kick was headed by Timbers newcomer Fanendo Adi in the box right to an unmarked Fernandez for the final crescendo.
The Timbers next play Saturday at the New York Red Bulls, while Columbus play host to the Chicago Fire on the same day.
Release from Portland Timbers