PORTLAND, Ore. — Andy Polo's first goal in Major League Soccer put the Timbers in front before the end of the first half and Portland went on to defeat the Columbus Crew 3-2 on Wednesday night.
Polo also had an assist on David Guzman's tying goal after the short-handed Crew went up in the opening minutes.
"He had a great performance and he's been looking for the goal for a while," Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said about Polo. "Today he looked a little more free, he went forward, he found the spaces that he needed. ... It was an important goal for us."
Niko Hansen scored both goals for the Columbus (12-9-8), including one that narrowed Portland's margin in stoppage time.
Portland, which won the MLS Cup championship in 2015, doesn't have much time to make up ground in the Western Conference with just five games remaining.
The Timbers (13-8-8) were coming off a 4-1 loss at Houston, a setback for their playoff position. Going into the match against the Crew, Portland held the sixth and final playoff spot in the West.
But with the win, and boosted by Seattle's 1-0 loss at home to Philadelphia on Wednesday, the Timbers moved into fourth in the standings.
Columbus coach Greg Berhalter did not start top scorer Gyasi Zardes or midfielder Justin Meram. Federico Higuain was left off the roster of players available for the game.
Zardes had made 28 consecutive starts. He leads the Crew with 15 goals, and is one goal shy of matching his previous season high.
"When we look at our squad we have guys that we believe in. The 11 that we put on the field tonight we thought were capable of winning this game. It's a decision that looking back on it, I think was the right one," Berhalter said. "I think we were capable of winning this game. We fell short in some key moments and we paid for it."
The Crew, who remained in fourth in the Eastern Conference, were coming off a scoreless draw at Dallas last Saturday. They'll turn around quickly and host Colorado this Saturday.
Hansen's goal in the seventh minute put the Crew in front early, but the Timbers tied it up with Guzman's goal in the 18th.
Portland went ahead in the 37th minute. Polo headed a shot which was parried by Columbus defender Milton Valenzuela and the Argentine midfielder followed through with a mid-air kick into the goal.
Portland padded the lead in the 48th minute on Samuel Armenteros' shot that deflected off of Lalas Abubakar for an own goal. Hansen scored again in stoppage time at the end of the match.
It was the first time the Timbers won this season after conceding the first goal.
"Obviously when you take on a little adversity, it's a positive when you come out of there with points, especially three points," said Timbers defender Zarek Valentin.
The last time the two teams met was last year in Columbus, with the Crew coming out ahead 3-2.