The game in 100 words (or less): It was three months ago to the day that the Portland Timbers were crowned 2015 MLS Cup winners, and a heartbroken Columbus Crew SC side watched them celebrate on their home field at MAPFRE Stadium. From the most consequential game of the season to perhaps the least consequential, the two sides opened the 2016 campaign in a rematch of last year’s title game, with the Timbers once again coming out on top by the final score of 2-1. The pace was frenetic, as was often the case for both of these sides in 2015 and figures to be a hallmark once again in 2016. Diego Chara, now playing as a solo defensive midfielder and looking all the more comfortable for it, bossed the midfield for Portland and stifled Crew SC’s potent attacking quartet for much of the game. If he’s capable of manning the midfield on his own all season long, the sky is truly the limit for the Timbers.
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Three moments that mattered
23′ — Valeri’s FK evades everyone, sneaks in far post — Steve Clark has seen just about enough of Diego Valeri. You’ll have to excuse Clark on this one, though, as he was understandably rooted to his line with the understandable expectation that someone — anyone — would get a touch on Valeri’s free kick. Alas, it sailed and sailed and sailed and finally ended up in the back of the net.
68′ — Higuain gets on his bike, equalize for Crew SC — Federico Higuain is something of a transcendent player (on his day), the type capable of conjuring something from absolutely nothing. Case in point: his bicycle-kick goal to equalize in the 68th minute. As beautiful as the finish is, how about that first touch? He collects it from well behind him and sets up the second part masterfully.
79′ — Adi bundles home a loose ball from a yard out — Not all goals can be beautiful bicycle kicks, but they all count the same. Fanendo Adi’s 79th-minute winner was about as unspectacular as goals get, but it proved to be the difference on this day nonetheless.
Man of the match: Diego Chara
Goalscorers: Valeri (23′), Higuain (68′), Adi (79′)