By MIKE DONOVAN
Two teams that currently sit on the outside of the Western Conference playoffs matched up Saturday night, but neither the Colorado Rapids nor the Portland Timbers could find a winner at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
The game finished in a 2-2 draw as the host Rapids used a penalty kick goal from Dillon Powers and a Deshorn Brown header to put an end to a club-record seven-match losing streak. Diego Valeri and Gaston Fernandez found the back of the net for the Timbers as they move just one point behind the Vancouver Whitecaps for the fifth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
After falling behind due to a Valeri strike late in the first half, the Rapids tied the match up two minutes into the second half on a Powers penalty kick. Drew Fischer controversially pointed to the spot after he ruled Liam Ridgewell handled a Deshorn Brown shot inside the 18-yard box. Powers had little trouble with the kick as Ricketts went the wrong direction, giving Powers his fifth goal of the season.
After the penalty kick, the match seemed to swing in Colorado’s favor as the Rapids continually put pressure on Portland’s back line with Brown leading the way. Brown almost gave the Rapids the lead when he found himself free on Ricketts, only to be denied by his fellow Jamaican.
Ricketts was unable to stop Brown eight minutes later, when the Jamaican striker latched onto a Marc Burch cross at the far post. Brown’s looping header, one of his game-high seven shots, gave Colorado its first lead of the match.
But the lead was short-lived as substitute Fernandez salvaged the draw for Portland just a minute after entering the match. Fernandez, who had not scored a goal in his last 12 league matches for Portland, shielded Burch from the ball and finished with his left foot around the onrushing John Berner. Fernandez’s goal was the 16th time the Timbers have scored in the final 15 minutes of a match, which is three more than any other MLS team.
Valeri staked the Timbers to a 1-0 halftime lead when his left-footed volley went past Berner after a flicked pass from Fanendo Adi. The goal was a culmination of a multi-pass sequence that began when Valeri sent a diagonal cross-field ball to Alvas Powell. After just two more passes, Valeri provided the final touch, half a field away from where he started the sequence.
Nick LaBrocca almost put the home side ahead early when a Pa Modou Kah attempted clearance fell to LaBrocca in stride, but his volleyed effort was parried over the bar by a sprawling Ricketts, who finished the match with five saves.
Both teams were without regular starters with Portland captain Will Johnson being rested as the club begins a five-game-in-two-week stretch. Meanwhile for Colorado, Vicente Sanchez, Chris Klute, and Dillon Serna were among the Rapid players who didn’t play Saturday night. Another change for the Rapids was the insertion of the rookie Berner at goalkeeper. Berner received the start ahead of Clint Irwin as Joe Nasco missed the match due to suspension stemming from a first-minute red card in the Rapids last match.
Colorado (8-13-7, 31 points) finds themselves six points behind fifth-place in the Western Conference and will next travel to Utah for a Friday-night clash with Rocky Mountain rival, Real Salt Lake. Portland (8-8-12, 36 points), meanwhile, will host the Whitecaps in a match that could have major implications on the Western Conference playoff race.
Here are the match highlights: