After rallying, Timbers hand New York a draw
The first half was nothing to write home about.
Everything after that was a pulse-pounding, adrenaline-pumping 45-minute rollercoaster that made even New York Red Bulls striker Thierry Henry - who has played in two World Cup finals - say: 'What a crazy second half.'
The Portland Timbers overcame a 1-0 deficit Sunday night at Jeld-Wen Field with two goals in the first five minutes of the second half. Then they went up 3-1 on a New York own goal. Portland then missed a penalty kick, allowed one Red Bulls goal and finally allowed the equalizer on a PK in stoppage time.
A hand ball on Timbers defender Rodney Wallace gave New York a shot at the tie, and Dwayne De Rosario hit the penalty shot to cap a wild finish.
'Portland deserved to win,' Henry said.
The Timbers (5-6-3, 18 points) chances of beating a titan of a club like the Red Bulls (5-2-8, 23 points) before the match were slim to none. After the fourth minute, slim looked as if it had left town.
The Red Bulls put on a beautiful display of an offensive machine working in perfect synchronization before the announced sellout crowd of 18,627.
Henry started the play when he sent a pass down the left touchline. De Rosario took the pass and made a run toward the goal. He sent the ball back across the pitch. Henry feigned as if he was going after the pass. Instead, he let the ball go. Austin Da Luz streaked in behind Henry and drilled a shot to the bottom corner of the left post.
'We were flat-footed coming out,' Timbers goalkeeper Troy Perkins said. 'We said we wanted to come out firing on all cylinders. We didn't. The ball goes wide, it comes in, and the guy has all the time and space in the world and slots it and hits a good finish.'
The Red Bulls looked in full control of the match for the rest of the half. Neither side put a shot on goal, but the ball was usually in the Red Bulls' attacking third.
Timbers assistant coach Trevor James - who filled in for while John Spencer was serving his one-game MLS suspension - must have given the Timbers one heck of a halftime speech. The Timbers came out in the second half like a different club.
'We really just asked them to pick up the intensity,' James says. 'We looked a little bit as if we were there to watch them play. It was just a matter of 'we need to compete more, we need to work harder, we need to believe in ourselves and get the ball forward a little quicker.''
In the 48th minute, a Timbers throw-in went into the box. A New York defender cleared the ball, but it went straight to Portland midfielder Jack Jewsbury. The captain took one touch and fired a 15-yard shot with enough venom to make it past goalkeeper Greg Sutton, to the bottom corner of the left post.
'I took my first touch and just tried to keep it low on frame, and just found the corner,' Jewsbury said.
One minute later, Jewsbury sent a ball into the box on a free kick. Timbers defender Eric Brunner got his head on the ball. It bounced to fellow Portland defender Kevin Goldthwaite, a halftime substitution for an injured David Horst.
Goldthwaite had not turned his body to the ball, so his only move was a backward, donkey kick. It worked. The ball found the back of the net, to the near post.
'Fortunately, it was the right place, right time sort of thing, and I got my foot on it and got a goal,' Goldthwaite said. 'It's like a little blackout moment where you really don't know what happens and you're just fortunate to get your foot on it.'
In the 57th minute, New York midfielder Teemu Tainio prevented another Timbers goal with a lifetime highlight-reel play.
After a free kick by Jewsbury, Sutton came forward to try to punch the ball away. But he was unable to prevent Brunner from heading it toward the goal. As the ball neared the empty net, Tainio sprinted toward the goal line and cleared the ball with a bicycle kick.
The Red Bulls could not stop the offensive flurry from Portland, though. In the 68th minute, the Timbers' Jorge Perlaza slipped down the left touchline. He tried to use a touch pass to get Kenny Cooper the ball.
Red Bulls defender Stephen Keel, who played for the Timbers' Division-2 club, raced in and tried to clear the ball. But as he slid, Keel knocked the ball to the right post for an own goal.
'I saw him slip the ball across,' Keel said. 'Out of the corner of my left eye, I saw Cooper there and figured I had to get a block and clear it, and obviously it went in.'
In the 73rd minute, Henry made it a match again. The Frenchman flipped the ball to Da Luz on a give-and-go. Da Luz took a touch and sent the ball back to Henry, who had entered the box unmarked. Henry sent in an 8-yard, left-footed shot to the left corner.
'I did a one-two with Austin Da Luz,' Henry said. 'He's a clever player, and he did well for me to make the run. He got me the ball on my left foot, and I was able to finish.'
The Timbers, still leading 3-2, continued to pour on the pressure. In the 77th minute, Perlaza took the ball behind the New York defenders. Sutton came off his line to make a challenge. As he dove, Sutton took Perlaza's feet out from under him.
Portland was awarded a PK. But Jewsbury sent the ball off the right post.
'I just wish I had put that one away and it gets us in a more comfortable state at that point,' Jewsbury said. 'It's unfortunate, hitting the post and not getting that one to go.'
The missed PK wound up costing the Timbers dearly.
Just as stoppage time was about to expire, Wallace was called for a hand ball in the box. De Rosario sent the PK into the back, and the Timbers had lost their chance at a massive upset.
Portland's next game will be Saturday at FC Dallas, and Spencer said the fact that his players were disappointed with the New York draw shows how far the Timbers have come.
'We're gutted,' he said, 'that we (didn't take) three points off what I consider to be the most potent attacking force in the country.'