Timbers open the right way

Portland celebrates MLS Cup with 2-1 win over Columbus
March 6, 2016 / By Cliff Pfenning, Oregonsports Journal
Fanendo Adi celebrates his goal Sunday.
Cliff Pfenning, Oregonsports Media
Portland fans reminded Columbus keeper Steve Clark of a key point from the 2015 final.
Photo by Cliff Pfenning, Oregonsports Media.

PORTLAND -The Portland Timbers gave their fans the best possible start to the 2016 MLS season Sunday at Providence Park - a win before a raucous home crowd.

Diego Valeri scored in the 23rd minute in front of the Timbers Army, and Fanendo Adi scored in the 79th minute to give Portland a 2-1 victory over the Columbus Crew in a rematch of the MLS Cup final from December.

Portland celebrated it's 2015 Cup win prior to the game in several ways, then beat its opponent from the final by the same score - this time before a home crowd of 21,144.

"To see the banner of winning the 2015 (MLS Cup), that was amazing," Adi said afterward. "I think that emotion took us into the game, and we did well."

"It was a very important game for us, special," Valeri said. "The first one after the MLS Trophy, and we wanted to give the (win) three points to our fans. And, we did it."

Portland remained unbeaten in home openers in its sixth season in MLS.

The Crew actually held a number of statistical advantages from the match, including more passes, better passing accuracy and holding possession for more than 60 percent of the match. But, the Timbers won 50 of the 83 physical duels and turned them into 20 shots, eight of which were on target causing Columbus keeper Steve Clark to make six saves.

Portland keeper Adam Kwarasey made three saves.

Valeri's goal came off a free kick from 25 yards away on the left side. The right-footed kick cleared the Columbus wall and then curled into the near post to spark a celebration among a crowd that had been revved up for more than an hour of pre-game hype.

Portland continually pressured Clark with shots and had a pair of goals waived off for offsides and an inadvertent handball.

The tone of the game changed early in the second half and Federico Higuain scored on a bicycle kick in the 68th minute to tie the score.

Portland survived a strong series of action by the Crew directly following the goal, and Dairon Asprilla set of the winning goal with a drive up the left side that finished in a cross. After a couple touches, Adi jumped on the ball and slid the ball past Clark for the final score.

Columbus narrowly missed tying the game moments later when Higuain beat Kwarasey to his right, but the shot hit the post and bounced high and away from direct advantage.

Portland finished with a 20-19 edge in shots.

The Timbers continue their 34-game regular-season schedule at San Jose Sunday.