By James Morgan
On Wednesday evening at Jeld-Wen Field, the Portland Timbers convincingly beat the Los Angeles Galaxy 3-0.
This was not the result of a random series of chance events in which the Galaxy would have fared better had fortune only smiled upon them.
Nor was it the case that MLS’s highest ranked team was somehow tired or worn out after handing the Vancouver Whitecaps a 4-0 drubbing last Saturday.
To the contrary, it was a matter of one side demonstrably playing a better and more aggressive game for which the other had no real answer.
In the end, the vaunted Los Angeles Galaxy took a beating at the hands of an expansion side that many have long since written off.
With team Captain and MLS All-Star Jack Jewsbury out with a hamstring injury, and with newly anointed forward Eddie Johnson out with a concussion suffered during practice, Timbers Head Coach John Spencer reverted to the old 2-4-4 formation with Kenny Cooper and Jorge Perlazza as forwards. It was up to midfielders Sal Zizzo and Darlington Nagbe, backed by the omni-present Diego Chara, to fill the void.
And fill it they did.
In the opening minutes of the game, the Timbers, known as a fast starting side, dominated the run of play with good passing and an always present center in Chara. The Galaxy seemed taken aback, but as a known second half team, they seemed largely unconcerned until the 26th minute when off of a pass from Chara, Nagbe passed to newly acquired defender Mike Chabala who shot it into the right side of the net from about 20 yards out.
This got the Galaxy’s attention and one began to suspect that they knew they were in a real fight rather than the walk-over they may have legitimately expected.
However, matters quickly worsened for LA when, in the 33rd minute Jorge Perlazza, on an excelent pass from his childhood friend Diego Chara, produced a burst of speed to beat Galaxy defender A.J. De La Garza in the box. Perlazza threw a sliding right-footed shot that went home in the far left corner of the net.
LA was silent for the remainder of the half, especially in the case of forward Landon Donovan who was effectively shut down by a smothering Timbers defense that never left him alone.
The second half began with both sides playing at a blistering pace. The Galaxy, no doubt in mind of the Timbers’ disgraceful second-half record, began to turn up the heat, passing and playing as if they meant it in earnest, as opposed to their prior lackadiasical performance. In the 51st minute they put together their first shot on goal of the night, but Timbers goalkeeper Troy Perkins was right there to snag it for a save and goalkick.
Matters continued to progress and from the 60th to 70th minute the Timbers played a hard-fought defense against a Galaxy side that in Landon Donovan and David Beckham is host to two of the world’s finest players.
In the event, though Beckham threatened with several corner and free kicks, it was not enough for the Galaxy and in the 68th minute Eric Brunner headed in a third point for the Timbers off of a Zizzo corner kick.
Down 3-0 and the 90th minute rapidly approaching, the Galaxy found itself in a situation it had not counted upon.
To their credit, the Galaxy played hard in the last few minutes of the match, seeking, as they must have been, that well-known Timbers weakness, but it was to no avail, the Timbers maintained a wall-like defense and LA would go home badly beaten by a puissant expansion team that will be lucky to make the play-offs.
The first thing to say is that I believe this is a glimpse of what we’re going to see with the Portland Timbers next year. Head Coach John Spencer is, regardless of the Timbers’ current record, no joke. I firmly believe that Spencer knows what the hell he is doing and that once the Timbers find a good starting XI, they will easily become one of the dominant sides in MLS. I mean, look at it: here comes the LA Galaxy, the best team in the league, and not only do the Timbers handle them, but they also take them for a convincing beat-down.
And before anyone says anything, lemme say this; I know very well that the Timbers lack consistency, maturity and what Spencer calls character. But that said, what they don’t lack is the single most important ingredient, and that’s talent.
There isn’t much else to be said about the Timbers’ win over the Galaxy. It mostly speaks for itself and if there was any ever doubt as to what the boys in green are capable of, I believe that Wednesday evening put them to rest.
Long story short? The Portland Timbers are here to stay, we can beat anyone in all of MLS, and if you take us for granted, we WILL take you down.
I don’t expect that the Timbers will make it all the way to the top and take the MLS Cup this year, but don’t blink, Seattle, because we’re here, and even though Vancouver may be worthless, you will know you’ve been in a fight when you come to Jeld-Wen.