The sun came out for the Matchday 5 encounter between the Timbers and LA Galaxy.
An afternoon matchup between two teams yearning for a positive result and an energized Providence Park set the stage for the Western Conference battle. The Timbers began the game attacking towards the south end, with the Army behind them, fighting for an opener. It was a closely fought first half, with both teams trading approaches into the final third.
For the Timbers, it was the man in goal who stood out, denying approaches by the visitors on multiple occasions. Key saves from David Bingham in the first 10 minutes of action assured Portland's goal remained intact. Perhaps the most astounding save occurred in the 28th minute, when Galaxy midfielder Riqui Puig received a through ball on the left side and, from 10 yards outside the box, sent a curler to Bingham's left. With some quick reflexes, Bingham dove and finger-tipped the ball away from the goal and towards a corner kick.
The first 45 minutes were filled with controversy as forward Nathan Fogaça twice found himself on the receiving end of referee Chris Penso's divisive decisions. In the 24th minute, an attacking run in the box landed Fogaça the ball, only for him to be tripped up by the Galaxy defender and hit the ground. Penso signaled to play on, and after the ball went out of bounds, he halted play in what appeared to be a review of the call. After a few seconds with his hand to his earpiece, he confirmed play to resume, much to the disgruntlement of the home crowd.
In the 38th minute, Fogaça went into the book with a yellow card for what appeared to be a 50/50 challenge with LAG goalkeeper Jonathan Klinsmann. Chasing after a through ball in the box, Fogaça jumped over a diving Klinsmann and seemed to make contact with the ball already in the goalie's hands. Penso deemed it a dangerous play and showed Fogaça the yellow card/
The halftime whistle ended a first half of back-and-forth play with a zero-to-zero scoreline.
The Timbers returned to the field in the second half with no changes to the lineup. Los Angeles came knocking on the doorsteps early on, coming closest in the 56th minute. A direct free-kick attempt struck off the right post, with a flying Bingham following it for insurance. The next 25 minutes kept the stalemate active. Both Portland and Los Angeles built momentum on runs into the final third but were unable to create a real threat once there.
Portland's clearest shot on goal did not come until the 88th minute of play. A lofted ball from Eryk Williamson to the right flank for Diego Gutierrez sent the Galaxy defense back-peddling. Gutierrez then fired a low cross into the box, and unable to control it, the Galaxy defender dropped the rebound to a lurking Jaroslaw Niezgoda. Niezgoda's low strike from six yards out went straight at Klinsmann, who cleared the ball out of danger.
With the game clock close to hitting full-time, Portland brought an onslaught of attacks, hungry for a goal. On a series of cutting passes, it was Justin Rasmussen who got a look from the semi-circle. His shot at full force ended up going just above the crossbar. Just a minute later, a corner for Portland from the left gave the home crowd one last gasp, as Niezgoda found the ball amongst the defenders and placed his header just off-frame to Klinsmann's left.
Just before the final whistle, the afternoon's hero, David Bingham, would be assisted off the field following what appeared to be a hamstring injury. The man of many saves received an ovation from the Providence Park crowd. Out of substitutions, Justin Rasmussen stepped up and put on the goalkeeper's jersey and gloves for the remaining seconds of the match.
A stalemate in the end, it was David Bingham's performance that will be highlighted for this one. Bingham (and Rasmussen) secured the clubs 100th clean sheet in MLS regular season play on Saturday. Portland will continue onward towards Matchday 6 on April 1st, traveling to Frisco, Texas for a duel with FC Dallas.