PORTLAND, Ore. – This is why, when defining a team, you need to look at more than one result. It’s why you look at the process in addition to the score, when you’re evaluating performance. It’s also why, when a goalkeeper spills a ball to Cristhian Parades or a late foul is drawn by Samuel Armenteros (as happened against Los Angeles FC and San Jose, respectively), you remember: not every break is going to go your way. Six-game winning streaks are built on effort, execution, and performance, but they’re also built on timing; or, as some might put it, a little bit of luck.
That luck didn’t break the Portland Timbers’ way on Saturday. Then again, it would be too much to say the team was unlucky. Andrés Flores had a good chance in the fourth minute. Diego Chara had one in the 22nd, too. LA Galaxy defender Michael Ciani intervened on Bill Tuiloma’s try in the 29th, while Julio Cascante elevated for his own chance in the 49th. There were plenty of chances for the Portland Timbers to make their streak a record-tying run.
The Timbers’ problem against the Galaxy wasn’t generating chances. It was converting them, something that’s part of the ebb and flow of professional soccer. In an ideal world, the team would compensate by generating more opportunities, but the Galaxy had something to say about that on Saturday, rebounding from their mid-week loss to FC Dallas with a strong performance. As a result, the Timbers’ six-game winning streak is history, while their 1-1 draw allows them to continue an unbeaten run to seven.
“I’m never satisfied when we don’t win, and when we win, we have to do it in a good way,” Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese said, when asked about the quantity and quality of his team’s chances. “Today, we tied, but also, we need to analyze it and [remember] that it was important for us to get the point.
“We did create some opportunities,” he continued. “We did have chances. We could have found that goal that could have given us the edge early. But I thought, also, [the Galaxy] make it an up-and-down game. They had moments where they were able to find space in the middle, so they were dangerous, as well. I thought it was a dangerous match, all around.”
In the heat of a mid-afternoon game at Providence Park, that early edge proved important. The pace of play was bound to wilt, at some point, which only enhanced Portland’s challenge after Chris Pontius’ 20th minute goal. It was an adept finish – sending Tuiloma racing by while he turned onto a far-post shot – one that meant the Timbers would have to chase the match. Beneath the sun of a 2:00 p.m. Pacific kickoff, the task could prove exhausting.
Diego Valeri eventually had to leave, having picked up “a knock,” according to Saverese. Tuiloma would have to give way, too, after he briefly looked to be cramping up. Before they left, though, the score had been leveled, with Valeri’s second-half conversion from the spot leaving the home crowd waiting for Portland’s next, go-ahead goal.
That goal never came, with the Galaxy outshooting Portland six to two over the match’s final 33 minutes. But come full time, the Timbers believed they’d generated enough looks, over the course of the match, to get that crucial second score.
“We had a lot of clear looks at goal, important chances,” Sebastián Blanco said, after his team’s draw, “and we were a little angry that we didn’t convert those opportunities. But it’s also important that we didn’t lose, that we got a result, and we kept pace with the other teams in the conference.”
It’s more than just a silver lining. Not every match can produce a perfect performance; hence, the league record for consecutive wins being “only” seven. And even when you have good performances, the goals don’t always come, and while that doesn’t completely excuse dropping points at home, it does provide context. When people say to look at the process, they'll tell you a season isn’t defined by one game, and evoke those “any given day” clichés, it’s because performance doesn’t always perfectly correlate with results.
Saturday’s final score was probably a fair one, but during their six-game winning streak, the Timbers have played worse and won. Perhaps they could have again scraped out three points, but maybe, things are just starting to even out.