After a three-week international break, the Portland Timbers returned to action on Saturday afternoon searching for three crucial points against the LA Galaxy. The Timbers started the game on the front foot and scored the game-opening goal shortly before halftime, but settled for a 1-1 draw after conceding in the game’s final moments.
A single point was not what Portland was hoping for, especially after holding onto a one-goal lead for nearly an hour, but players left Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, feeling more positive and confident about their style of play than when they went their separate ways back in Miami on May 28.
“We’re disappointed we didn’t win, but the energy and way we played today, this is our team,” head coach Giovanni Savarese said after the match. “Keeping that intensity and desire, we will win more matches.”
The Timbers began Saturday’s game much better than the last time they faced the Galaxy, when they conceded a ninth-minute goal to Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and lost 3-1 at Providence Park.
Portland’s attack appeared more dangerous and for longer stretches. The visitors won possession back multiple times high in the Galaxy’s half and generated a dangerous opportunity from close range after a one-two sequence between Sebastián Blanco and Santiago Moreno ended with a shot right into the gut of LA goalkeeper Jonathan Bond.
The continued early pressure paid off in the 38th minute when Yimmi Chara opened the scoring, capping off a lethal counter-attacking opportunity in which he raced from defense to attack in seconds, received the ball and put it past Bond at the near post.
“We played very well and should have gotten three points,” Savarese said. “We were the better team today on the field and we created enough chances to be able to win this game.”
The Timbers outshot LA 12-11 and, as Savarese mentioned, generated enough solid chances to leave Southern California with all three points; however, the host’s chances were more clear-cut. The Galaxy put five of their shots on target, while just two of Portland’s chances directly tested Bond’s reflexes.
When asked about necessary improvements ahead of the club’s next match against the Colorado Rapids on June 25, Savarese, as well as his players, pointed out little details such as maturity in the final third and holding onto the ball. Blanco mentioned giving away too many easy balls in the final 10 minutes and allowing LA too much space to exploit when it recovered possession.
“When you have so many chances and don’t take advantage of them a team like LA at home, you suffer,” Blanco said. “We need to improve at keeping the ball and be more efficient.”
While they will only return north with a point, the Timbers leave California with some things to be pleased with.
Goalkeeper Aljaz Ivacic continued his run of good form from earlier in the season, making two especially vital saves – a leaping, two-handed effort on a free kick and a kick save moments later – to keep the score knotted at zero before Chara’s go-ahead goal.
Felipe Mora also saw his first minutes since MLS Cup last December. After missing the season’s first 15 matches, he entered the game in the 85th minute and received a few touches. His presence adds more depth, as well as eventual goals, to the team’s front line.
“I think we have to be proud today,” Blanco said. “We have to repeat that performance next we at home. We need to take the three points, but I think today we showed a different attitude.”
A road point in MLS is always valuable, something the Timbers will gladly take along with more lessons learned, but dropping points so late will leave a bitter taste in any team’s mouth. Currently sitting in 12th place in the Western Conference, Portland is looking to make up ground in the standings quickly after the break; the hope is that that Saturday’s result will provide at least a little bit of a spring board.
“We know we have to give more,” Chara said through a translator. “We don’t have time to lose any more points and the team knows that. We created a lot of good chances that we couldn’t convert, but we are happy with the point we are leaving with at the very least.”