Log lift, Timbers vs. LA, 7.27.19

There was time early in the Portland Timbers’ 2019 season when the team’s plans began to come together; when the trials of 12 road games to start the regular season gave way to the second half’s promise. Perhaps no game encapsulated that promise more than the Timbers’ July 27, 4-0 rout of the LA Galaxy – Steve Clark’s selection for this Sunday's PTFC: From The Archive, presented by KeyBank, broadcast on FOX 12 Oregon KPTV and Timbers.com.

“Tonight, [I’m] just proud of the performance,” was head coach Giovani Savarese’s post-match assessment. “We can always adjust and do better things, but overall it was a very good performance from the guys. A complete performance all around.”

Portland entered July’s final match on the ascent, unbeaten in seven while going 11-3-3 in their last 17 overall. Some of those games were in U.S. Open Cup, but most were in league, with the team’s upturn leaving second in the West within striking distance. Los Angeles FC’s historic start meant first and the Supporters’ Shield were likely out of reach, but as Portland’s 2018 showed, the most important thing about an MLS regular season is how it prepares you for the playoffs. You want the best seed possible, but more than anything, you want to be your best self once the postseason starts.

When the Galaxy arrived at Providence Park, Portland was trending in that direction, though for as much as the Timbers would control the game’s early chances, goals proved difficult to come by. Brian Fernandez shot wide in the fifth minute, Cristhian Paredes couldn’t convert his chance in the 16th, while Diego Valeri was saved in the 21st. For most of the first half, Portland monopolized the chances, but as intermission approached, the Galaxy began creating chances of their own.

Then, the breakthrough: a 37th-minute header from Paredes that, from the edge of the six-yard box, cashed in on Jorge Moreira’s far-post cross. Four minutes later, another goal, with Valeri’s nutmeg of Daniel Steres part of one El Maestro’s most memorable goals.

Three red cards in the match’s final 10 minutes highlighted how one-sided the game had become. By then, Parades had added a second, with Jeremy Ebobisse capping the scoring in the 88th. Keeping Zlatan Ibrahimovic off the scoresheet, the Timbers revealed a piece of their potential. If 12 road matches to start the season left them in survival mode, the season’s second half would allow them to come out of their shell.

“When you have this unbeaten streak, it brings you a lot of confidence,” defender Larrys Mabiala said. “We know where we came from. It was a very tough beginning of the season, so we won’t be overconfident with how we train. We’re taking every game one after the other and we’ll try to manage it.”

Then, things changed. The Timbers returned to the road, heading to Minnesota for a league-Open Cup double. They lost the MLS game by one goal. They lost by one in Open Cup. Over 13 matches that’d follow, Portland went 5-4-4: good enough for sixth in the West; seven points behind that second-place mark.

The Galaxy game reminds us of what could have been. It showed us the talent Portland had in its squad. But like the rest of the PTFC: From the Archives series, it’s also a moment of its own – 90 minutes where, once context is stripped away, the Timbers were just good. And for a few months in the middle of the 2019 season, the Timbers were very good.