Amarilla scores twice as Loons draw 4-4 with Portland

Amarilla scores twice as Loons draw 4-4 with Portland
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Trailing after a mere 13 seconds and leading by two goals by halftime, Minnesota United extended its unbeaten streak to seven games with a rollicking 4-4 draw against Portland on Saturday at Allianz Field that only felt like a loss.

"It feels like a defeat now, but it isn't," Loons coach Adrien Heath said.

Veteran Timbers star Sebastian Blanco scored twice — including the fourth-fastest goal in MLS history — and launched a shot deflected for a Minnesota own goal that provided Portland three goals in 15 minutes and a fleeting 4-3 lead in the 65th minute.

Loons striker Luis Amarilla scored twice himself, including the 69th-minute equalizer when he turned Bongokuhle Hlongwane's header into one of his own for his seventh goal this season.

Loons defender Michael Boxall called the outcome "massively disappointing" after what his team reversed after that early goal and built by halftime. The Loons had done so in a wildly paced, eight-goal game played on a warm, sunny, summer's afternoon paused by hydration breaks before a national television audience and an announced 19,792 fans at sold-out Allianz Field.

The Loons now have won five games and tied two in their last seven games after they let victory become defeat in a game at Inter Miami a month ago.

"If you had asked me seven games ago, would we have taken five wins and two draws, you bet we would have done," Heath said. "Now it doesn't feel too good."

The Loons will play on next week without Boxall, star midfielder Emanuel Reynoso and versatile Robin Lod after all three received one yellow card too many on Saturday. All three are suspended for next Saturday's game at Colorado for yellow card accumulation.

Portland extended its own unbeaten streak to eight games (4-0-4). The seventh-place Timbers trail the third-place Loons by four points in the Western Conference standings.

Blanco and the Timbers scored first before the Loons touched the ball, building an attack from their first possession that Blanco finished after five team touches for a dizzying 1-0 lead.

It was not only the fastest goal scored or allowed in a Loons' regular-season game. It was the fourth-fastest all time in MLS. New York Red Bulls' Mike Grella is the record holder with a goal scored seven seconds in against Philadelphia on Oct. 18, 2015.

Boxall noted the rare afternoon start time and the national television audience when asked about his team's start and goal allowed so early.

"Everyone is kind of fired up so maybe you're a little bit too excited to do things you don't necessarily do," Boxall said. "Not the best start, but our front guys were fantastic that first half and they really got us back in the game."

BOXSCORE: Loons 4, Portland 4

The Loons countered their early deficit with a set piece, corner kick goal finished by Franco Fragapane in the ninth minute, Hlongwane's second goal in two games in the 21st minute and Amarilla's long run with the ball and short shot for a goal in the 41st minute.

"Last thing I said before the second half: Don't start the second half like they did the first," Heath said. "Do not give them something to believe in and for 15 minutes, I don't think we won a first ball in our half of the field. Late on every challenge. Like dominoes, one goes and then the next one goes."

Amarilla rescued the point earned after Portland scored those three goals in 15 minutes. His header goal was the equalizer that came four minutes after a Blanco shot deflected off defender Kemar Lawrence for a Loons own goal.

"Our back four and goalkeeper have had a lot of praise this year, quite rightly so," Heath said. "Tonight it wasn't quite good enough and they know it."

Disappointed with the result, Heath nonetheless will take the point.

"I've said a million times, I will never, ever be disappointed with a point," he said. "It keeps the run going and it takes us one point closer to what we hope to achieve."