Late Niko Hansen Goal Propels Columbus Crew SC to Statement Win Over Portland Timbers

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Revenge is a dish best served up with a game-winner from a rookie.

Courtesy of an 84th minute Niko Hansen goal, Columbus Crew SC knocked off the Portland Timbers 3-2 on Saturday. The match was the first between the two clubs at MAPFRE Stadium since Portland won MLS Cup 2015.

Late Niko Hansen Goal Propels Columbus Crew SC to Statement Win Over Portland Timbers

After changing things up with a 3-6-1 formation in last week’s 2-0 win over D.C. United, Crew SC manager Gregg Berhalter returned to the 4-2-3-1. Center back Jonathan Mensah found his way back into the lineup after serving a red card suspension. Waylon Francis made his first start since August 13 of last year. He filled in for Jukka Raitala who missed the game due to international duty with Finland.

The home team started off poorly. Four minutes in, the Timbers drew first blood courtesy of a Dairon Asprilla goal. The Colombian wide player got in behind Francis and snuck the ball past goalkeeper Zack Steffen with a well-placed far post shot.

Seven minutes later, the Black and Gold equalized. It came via a favorable deflection off a Federico Higuain corner. After Ola Kamara headed the ball towards goal, it glanced off Timbers right back Alvas Powell and right at Justin Meram who tapped it into a virtually empty net.

With the goal, Meram became the 11th player in club history to reach 25 goals in a Crew SC uniform.

It didn’t take long for Columbus to put another in the net to take the lead. In the 19th minute, Kamara took advantage of some indecisiveness from Timbers goalkeeper Jake Gleeson. The Norwegian number nine came onto a pass from Higuain and promptly chipped it over Gleeson to give Crew SC a 2-1 advantage.

It appeared as though Columbus would take that edge into the locker room after 45 minutes. But right on the cusp of the halftime whistle, Fanendo Adi tied it up. The Timbers striker settled a Powell cross from the right flank and hit it into the top corner for his fourth goal of the year.

Right out of the gate, Adi nearly gave Portland the lead. But Steffen came up big in denying him. The 21-year-old netminder acrobatically dove to his left in denying the Nigerian his brace.

In the 60th minute, Berhalter brought Hansen on for Meram. It marked Hansen’s first ever appearance for the club. Columbus selected Hansen ninth overall in January’s Super Draft.

That move became significant 24 minutes later. For it was then that the Crew SC rookie gave his club a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. Hansen opportunistically pounced on a rebound off Gleeson’s initial save of Kamara, burying it into the net for his first career MLS goal.

Federico Higuain’s showcased his ability as a facilitator of chances in Saturday’s game. When Crew SC gets quality service from the Argentinian number ten, they’re a tough team to beat. He made five of Crew SC’s nine key passes including his assist on Kamara’s goal.

Columbus owned the edge in virtually all significant attacking statistics. They outshot Portland 16-11 and finished with a 7-4 advantage in shots on target. The club’s possession-based style also prominently featured Saturday, with Crew SC enjoying 64.4 percent of the ball.

But most importantly, the club found themselves on the favorable end of the final scoreline when referee Silviu Petrescu ended things four minutes into second half stoppage time.

For Hansen, the result can’t get much better. Not only did the first 30 minutes of his professional career result in a game-winning tally. But it also helped his team at least partially alleviate the sting of December 6th, 2015.

The Black and Gold return to action next Saturday as they welcome Orlando City SC to town. The visitors will come into the tie sporting an unbeaten 2-0-0 record. Match kickoff is set for 4 PM Eastern Time with the game being televised nationally on Univision Deportes.

Photo credit: Columbus Crew SC Communications

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