Columbus Crew SC rookie Niko Hansen came onto an MLS field for the first time in a heated battle with Columbus and Portland tied at 2. Hansen would leave with his first career goal and a Crew SC victory.
The rookie from Denmark waited on the back post in the 84’ as a rebound fell simply on his left foot and he slotted away the goal that would give Columbus their revenge from the heartbreaking 2015 MLS Cup final defeat. It would also give the Timbers their first loss of the season, and cause worries about the team’s ability on the road to resurface.
Portland started the scoring in the 4’ with Crew SC defender Waylon Francis getting beat and allowing Dairon Asprilla to slide the game’s first goal past Crew SC keeper Zack Steffen.
Columbus responded with an 11’ Justin Meram rebound off a corner and a 19’ chip-volley from Ola Kamara’s left foot, “I think we were the better team.” Said Kamara who scored his third goal in as many matches.
Columbus thought they would go into the half with a lead, until soon-to-be Portland’s greatest goal-scorer Fanendo Adi set down a pass in the box from Alvas Powell and buried it in the upper ninety. 2-2 at the half.
Portland was showcasing it’s attacking ability, and trying to make a statement to the entire MLS by winning their second road contest and making it a 4-0-0 start. Columbus showed some liabilities in their more attacking-centered 4-3-2-1 formation, but showed the deadly attacking abilities that haven’t appeared since the 2015 season. Both teams looked like the Conference champions they were in 2015; but Columbus would come out on top.
Gregg Berhalter’s squad would dominate in the second half, putting Portland on their heels and finally finding the 84’ winner from their rookie Niko Hansen. “I just got the chance and I finished it.” Said Hansen as he was showered by teammates in the post-game interview.
Columbus dominated possession on the evening by holding it 64% of the time and outperformed the early darlings of the MLS in almost every metric. Columbus turned some heads on Saturday evening, and will be considered a legitimate threat moving forward.
Jonathan Mensah was back in the lineup this week after being replaced by 22 year-old Alex Crognale; although Mensah didn’t perform to the level that Crognale did last week he had his best performance all season.
Crew SC managed to keep Portland star Diego Valeri off the stat line and limited his impact on the match, a much different result from the last time Valeri played at MAPFRE Stadium; when he scored in 27 seconds in the MLS Cup Final.
For the second week in a row Federico Higuain dominated the opposition. The Crew SC attacking-mid ended with a game high 925 match rating as he facilitated the Columbus attack.
Crew SC is 2-0-0 when Higuain plays up to his massive potential, and Columbus hopes that the last two matches are indications that Higuain is back on track.
Columbus advances to 2-1-1 on the season and will sit on top of the East while most other teams rest during the international break. Portland fell for the first time in 2017, and now sit at 3-1-0 but still in a dominant position out West.
This will be the last time these two teams meet in 2017, barring an MLS Cup Final rematch, and both teams showed the MLS something; Portland proved the 2016 road woes could be continuing into 2017, and Columbus proved that they belong in the MLS contender conversation.
Fanendo Adi now has 45 MLS goals, tying the all-time Portland record held by NASL-Era John Bain.
Columbus had a majority of possession for every 5’ interval other than the 10’-15’ and the 85’- 90’
Since winning the 2015 MLS Cup Portland has a record of 1-12-6 away from Home. The worst road record in the MLS during that period.
Niko Hansen is the 10th player in Crew SC history to score in his MLS debut.
CLB: Saturday, April 1 – vs. Orlando (4 pm ET | UniMás in US, MLS LIVE, facebook.com)
POR: Sunday, April 2 – vs. New England (9 pm ET | ESPN2 in US, MLS LIVE)
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