The Columbus Crew SC and Portland Timbers began their 2016 MLS Season with a rematch of the 2015 MLS Cup Finals. Last December, Portland traveled to the MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus where they got off to an early lead in the final game of the year by scoring the fastest goal in MLS Cup history at 27 seconds after the opening whistle. In the 7th minute, Portland scored again, delivering a demoralizing blow to the 2008 MLS Cup Champions. Despite Kei Kamara's goal for Columbus in the 18th minute, the Crew were unable to mount a comeback, and the Timbers took home their first league championship.Unfortunately for the Crew SC, their first game of the year ended with the same score as last year's finale match-up, a 2-1 loss to Portland. It was an exciting game, however, with more than a play or two worth re-watching. And while it wasn't enough to help the Crew get a victory, Federico Higuaín's goal was the kind of shot every soccer player dreams of making. After finishing the first half with a 1-0 deficit, Higuaín and the Crew SC were ready to go for the final 45 minutes of play. After a teammate's cross was deflected by a defender, "Pipa" was able to control the ball and set himself up for a bicycle kick, which left Portland's goalie and defense stunned.As impressive as the goal was, it wasn't quite enough for Columbus to get a bit of revenge after last year's showdown in December. Eleven minutes later, Portland snuck another one by the Crew's Steve Clark and Columbus was not able to respond before the game ended.
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Crew goalkeeper Clark played an excellent game, but the Timbers' attack was just too much on Sunday. It was Portland's Diego Valeri that scored in the 23rd minute and Fanendo Adi who notched the game-winner in the 79th minute. As shown in the video below, Clark had a phenomenal stop earlier in the game against Dairon Asprilla.In the days leading up to Sunday's game, Columbus announced three contract signings that they were very excited about. Kei Kamara was offered and accepted a Designated Player contract (worth over $1 million, according to FOX Sports) that will keep him in Columbus through the 2018 MLS Season.Additionally, the Crew SC inked deals with two rookies that had been playing with Columbus during the off-season. Marshall Hollingsworth, as reported by the MLS website, made a couple of appearances while Columbus competed in the Desert Diamond Cup -- impressive enough that the team offered a contract to the 41st overall pick from the 2016 MLS SuperDraft. Columbus also signed rookie goalkeeper Matt Pacifici, who shut out Real Salt Lake for over 28 minutes in the same tournament. Neither man suited up for Saturday's game against Portland. Next up for the Columbus Crew SC is a match against the Philadelphia Union on Saturday, March 12, while the Timbers travel to San Jose to face the Earthquakes the following evening. Beginning at 7:30 p.m. EST, coverage of Columbus Crew SC vs. Philadelphia Union will air live on TWC SportsChannel and CW Columbus.
[Photo by Steve Dipaola/AP Images]