The Portland Timbers’ Sunday night match against the New York Red Bulls featured a little bit of everything -- literally. A red card. An own goal. A costly handball. Two penalty kicks -- one missed, one made. And six goals.
In the end, the Timbers let the Red Bulls slip out of town with a 3-3 tie after building a two-goal lead and outplaying their opponents in the second half.
“It was a cruel game tonight,” Timbers coach John Spencer said.
Saying the Timbers played a crazy game is beginning to sound like a broken record, but each of the team’s last three games have upped the ante in terms of on-field chaos. And Portland crumbled late in the match for the second game in a row.
The first half didn’t foreshadow any of the madness to come. In many ways play was typical early on, right down to the Timbers’ early goal concession. French star and Red Bulls striker Thierry Henry sprung an attack in the fourth minute by slipping the ball through coverage to Dwayne De Rosario, who crossed to Austin da Luz for a daisy-cutter from 15 yards out, his first MLS goal. The score wasn’t surprising to either team -- Portland has a penchant for allowing goals early in games and New York leads Major League Soccer with seven goals scored in the first 15 minutes of matches.
Portland played to hold possession in the first half and limit New York’s attacks, but the Timbers’ own offense was stagnant and managed only one shot on goal in the first half. “The tempo wasn’t high enough, we never moved the ball quick enough, we gave them a little bit too much respect,” Spencer said.
But the offense exploded right after halftime. In the 48th minute Timbers midfielder Jack Jewsbury gathered the ball off a rebound and scored from the top of the box past frozen Red Bulls goalkeeper Greg Sutton. Fans were still reeling from the equalizer when Kevin Goldthwaite turned in the shot of his career. Coming off a cross by Jewsbury, defender Eric Brunner headed the ball back toward Goldthwaite just six yards out from the goal. Goldthwaite, a former Red Bulls defender, flicked the ball behind him with the inside of his right foot and into the goal, giving Portland the lead, 2-1.
The Timbers piled on in the 67th minute. Striker Jorge Perlaza led a break toward the goal against two Red Bulls defenders. He attempted to cross the ball to Kenny Cooper running toward the left post. Steven Keel -- a former Timbers defender now with New York -- slid to intercept the pass but instead sent the ball into the net for an own goal.
Henry finally made his presence known in the 73rd minute when he gracefully slipped a shot low and into the goal, narrowing the lead. Defender Rodney Wallace picked up a yellow card for being involved in a skirmish in the goal after the score.
Portland bounced back quickly and continued their offensive assault. On another fast break in the 76th minute Perlaza was tripped in the box by Sutton, drawing a penalty kick for the Timbers. But Jewsbury took the penalty shot and pinged it off the right post.
That would have sealed it for the Timbers, and they were left trying to hang on. Henry was ejected on a straight red card after a confrontation away from the ball with Timbers midfielder Adam Moffat.
That seemed to kill the Red Bulls hopes. But a minute later, De Rosario drove a cross toward the Timbers goal and Wallace deflected it with his arm in the penalty box. De Rosario drilled the penalty kick with no time left in the game. Timbers goalkeeper Troy Perkins guessed right, but Rosario’s kick zoomed just beyond Perkins’ gloves and into the goal to end it in a 3-3 draw.
“The players are absolutely distraught,” Spencer said.