PORTLAND — The Portland Timbers entered Saturday's match desperate for a win against Columbus.
They didn't get it. But on a night when they might have unraveled, the Timbers demonstrated the kind of fight they will need to turn around a frustrating season.
Playing down a man for more than an hour, the Timbers twice came from behind in the second half to earn a 3-3 draw in a wild, entertaining contest at sold-out Providence Park.
"You can spin it anyway you want, but that's a good result, down a goal and down a man," Timbers coach Caleb Porter said. "But more than that — just to play the way they played, I think, says a lot about the type of team we are."
Frederico Higuain scored twice in the first half for the Crew, and substitute Ethan Finlay scored to give the visitors a late lead. Second-half goals from Will Johnson and Gaston Fernandez earned the Timbers their seventh tie of the season.
The Timbers (1-3-7, 10 points) almost left with a needed win, but an offside call denied a stoppage time goal from Jack Jewsbury.
That was the final piece of drama on a night with plenty of it.
Less than a minute after Johnson's 80th-minute goal pulled Portland into a 2-all tie, Columbus regained the lead when Finlay dribbled into the penalty area and took a shot that deflected off Portland's Futty Danso for the third Crew goal of the night.
Still, the Timbers found another equalizer. In the 85th minute, Diego Valeri took a free kick from 35 yards in front of goal that Fanendo Adi — in his Timbers debut — headed to the far post where Gaston Fernandez punched the ball into the goal.
Portland took an early 1-0 lead on a Maximiliano Urruti goal in the fifth minute, but a beautiful 25-yard chip shot from Higuain tied it in the 14th minute.
Higuain made it 2-1 in first-half stoppage time by converting a penalty kick after the Timbers' Danso was called for a foul while defending a Crew corner kick.
Porter said he had not seen the play that led to the penalty kick. But the coach pointed to the 36th minute red card to right back Alvas Powell, who committed a reckless tackle that sent Columbus' Chad Barson flying, as a turning point in the match.
"(Powell) showed his youth," Porter said. "Rash challenge. Can't do that. You hurt the team."
Forced to play with 10 men, Porter inserted Jorge Villafana to play left back, pulling Urruti from the front line.
After halftime, the Timbers looked more like the team a man up than a man down. Portland forced Columbus goalkeeper Steve Clark to work in the second half. Clark made a terrific reaction save on a Will Johnson shot in the 70th minute on a play that started with Darlington Nagbe hustling back to break up a Crew attack, then starting a Portland counter-attack.
Nagbe, who played several different positions and made an impact throughout the match, forced Clark to make a save when he got free in the penalty area in the 74th minute.
Things started well enough for the home side. Urruti scored in the fifth minute, finishing a play that started when Johnson won possession in midfield and fed Steve Zakuani on the left wing. Zakuani dribbled into the penalty area and slipped a pass to free Urruti.
But it was the second half effort that had Porter talking optimistically about his team's chance to rise out of last place.
"If you have the will to win like we had today, then anything can happen from here on out. I'm happy to know that we have that in us," Porter said.
"All we can do is keep fighting," the coach added. "Hopefully, we play more like we played in that second half, and hopefully play that way when we don't have adversity like we had today."
Adi, who arrived in Portland on Friday after the team acquired him on loan from FC Copenhagen, replaced Villafana in the 83rd minute with Portland desperate for a goal or two.
Jeremy Hanson, former boys soccer coach at Columbia River, was the assistant referee opposite the benches. He was involved in a series of meaningful decisions, including the offside decision on Jewsbury's goal at the game's end.
TIMBERS 3, CREW 3
Columbus 2 1—3
Portland 1 2—3
First half—1, Portland, Urruti 3 (Zakuani), 5th minute. 2, Columbus, Higuain 5 (Jimenez), 14th. 3, Columbus, Higuain 6 (penalty kick), 45th+.
Second half—4, Portland, Johnson 2 (Jewsbury), 80th. 5, Columbus, Finlay 1 (Higuain), 81st. 6, Portland, Fernandez 5 (Adi, Valeri), 85th.
Goalies—Columbus, Steve Clark; Portland, Donovan Ricketts.
Yellow Cards—Williams, Columbus, 34th; Higuain, Columbus, 40th; Clark, Columbus, 78th; Arrieta, Columbus, 85th.
Red Cards—Powell, Portland, 34th.
Referee—Jose Carlos Rivero. Assistant Referees—Fabio Tovar. Jeremy Hanson. 4th Official—Allen Chapman.
Columbus—Steve Clark, Tyson Wahl, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Chad Barson, Josh Williams, Tony Tchani, Wil Trapp, Hector Jimenez (Ethan Finlay, 80th), Jairo Arrieta, Federico Higuain, Justin Meram (Bernardo Anor, 75th).
Portland—Donovan Ricketts, Pa-Modou Kah, Mamadou Danso, Alvas Powell, Darlington Nagbe, Ben Zemanski (Gaston Fernandez, 75th), Diego Valeri, Will Johnson, Jack Jewsbury, Steve Zakuani, Maximiliano Urruti (Jorge Villafana, 36th).