PORTLAND, Ore. — Columbus native and former Crew defender Eric Brunner came back to haunt his old team on Saturday night, scoring the only goal in a 1-0 Portland victory at JELD-WEN Field.
The second-half goal — a header off a free kick in the 46th minute — helped Portland maintain their dominance at home with their fifth straight victory on home turf in front of a sell-out crowd of 18,627.
Barely 30 seconds after the break, forward Jorge Perlaza dropped a free kick to midfielder Kalif Alhassan inside the box. The Ghanaian then lofted a nifty pass across the goalmouth to Brunner, who sent the ball to the back of the net for the Timbers' sixth goal off a set piece this season.
The match was a back-and-forth contest in the first half, with both teams mounting consistent offensive attacks. Portland forwards Kenny Cooper and Perlaza found plenty of room to work on the edges, keeping Columbus’ defense on its toes early. Likewise, the physical play of Crew forwards Tommy Heinemann and Emilio Rentería produced two shots on goal.
Portland missed an early scoring opportunity in the 15th minute when Perlaza made a nice cross to the front of the box, but midfielder Jack Jewsbury couldn’t corral it in time for a shot attempt. Then, Perlaza was tackled by Columbus defender Chad Marshall just wide of the goal, earning Portland a set-piece opportunity, but the free kick sailed high and out of bounds.
The best opportunity for Columbus came in the 42nd minute, when Heinemann directed a diving header at the end of a long pass. Portland goalkeeper Troy Perkins was able to nudge just past the goalpost for the save.
Brunner's goal marked the beginning of a relentless second-half attack by the Timbers, who earned two corner kicks and two close-in free kicks. But Portland were unable to add to their lead.
Columbus just missed an excellent chance to equalize in the 87th minute when a left-footed shot attempt by midfielder Robbie Rogers glanced off the goalpost.
With the win, Portland (5-3-2) move into a second-place tie in the Western Conference. The Timbers next host Dutch champions Ajax Amsterdam in a friendly at JELD-WEN Field on May 25.
While Portland’s trend of solid play at home continued, Columbus’ road woes also persisted. The Crew (3-3-4) are 0-3-2 on the road and have been outscored 8-2 in away contests. They return home to host Chivas USA on May 28.
POR -- Eric Brunner 1 (Kalif Alhassan 5, Jack Jewsbury 5) 46
CLB -- Chad Marshall (caution; Reckless Tackle) 23
POR -- Kenny Cooper (caution; Unsporting Behavior) 37
CLB -- Julius James (caution; Reckless Tackle) 82
POR -- Diego Chara (caution; Reckless Tackle) 84
Columbus Crew -- William Hesmer, Sebastian Miranda, Chad Marshall, Julius James, Rich Balchan, Eddie Gaven, Emmanuel Ekpo, Dejan Rusmir (Dilly Duka 65), Robbie Rogers, Tommy Heinemann (Jeff Cunningham 74), Emilio Renteria (Andres Mendoza 38).
Substitutes Not Used: Kevin Burns, Josh Gardner, Andy Iro, Andy Gruenebaum.
Portland Timbers -- Troy Perkins, Jeremy Hall, Eric Brunner, Mamadou Danso, Rodney Wallace, Darlington Nagbe (Sal Zizzo 46), Jack Jewsbury, Diego Chara, Kalif Alhassan (James Marcelin 89), Kenny Cooper, Jorge Perlaza (Ryan Pore 84).
Substitutes Not Used: David Horst, Peter Lowry, Steve Purdy, Adin Brown.
Referee: Edvin Jurisevic
Referee's Assistants: Colin Arblaster; James Conlee
4th Official: Tyler Ploeger
Time of Game: 1:51
Weather: Cloudy and 60 degrees