A six-goal night at Providence Park ended with Portland’s third straight dramatic result, but with defensive mistakes continuing to undermine what little momentum Caleb Porter’s team can muster, the drama is less a fight against adversity than an attempt to overcome self-inflicted wounds. With Gastón Fernández scoring his fifth goals of the season late in Portland, the 1o-man Timbers were able to come back to draw Columbus, 3-3, but the erratic play of a team’s back line continues to define Porter’s second season.
Norberto Paparatto, one of the Timbers’ two big offseason buys from Argentina, was so bad to start the season, he was replaced in the team’s starting lineup by Mamadou “Futty” Danso. On a moment-to-moment basis, there’s been a clear improvement, with the central defense tandem Danso forms with Pa Modou Kah flashing the form that produced six shutouts in seven regular season games last season.
Then there are the meltdowns. There are the accidents. There are the freak occurrences that seem to plague Danso. Consider just the last three games:
- Against D.C. United, Danso inadvertently headed a corner kick into his own net for a later equalizer.
- Against the LA Galaxy, the Gambian defender watched a Dan Gargan throw in fly over his partner and bounce in the six-yard box, allowing Robbie Keane to put the Galaxy up in stoppage time.
- And tonight against Columbus, Danso was called for a first half penalty before, redirecting an 81st minute shot from Ethan Finlay into his own net.
The last of those misfortunes came as Portland, having just fought back to 2-2 following Alvas Powell’s red card, looked set to salvage a result after the early dismissal tipped the scales in Columbus’s favor. On a three-match losing streak and without half of their back line, the Crew seemed set up for the Timbers’ second win of the season, but after Powell’s sending off, one point would have been enough.
It made Danso’s latest accident potentially devastating. After Will Johnson’s deflected goal in the 80th minute finally provided an answer to Federico Higuaín’s first half double, the Timbers were back even, having built on Maxi Urruti’s early opener. With Providence Park ignited, the Timbers seemed primed to push for a winner only to see that momentum blunted. Inadvertent as it was, Danso was responsible for another dramatic goal, giving the Timbers Army less than a minute to enjoy Johnson’s goal.
New signing Fanendo Adi came through four minutes later, knocking down a restart for Fernández on the game’s winning goal, but once the euphoria of the short-handed comeback wanes, the Timbers will be faced with the same question they’ve been trying to answer all season: What do we do in defense?
Right now, the answer appears to be “nothing.” Just wait for the luck to start evening out. If it doesn’t even out, the urgency that saw Portland get Adi from FC Copenhagen will be applied to the defense. At some point, the Timbers have to start avoiding the bad luck that’s following Futty Danso.