Going into the second half, the LA Galaxy-Portland Timbers tilt looked like a typical LA Galaxy home match: The Galaxy with a 1-0 lead looking to extinguish the dying embers of a Portland Timbers team that has played well on the road but, outside a small number of examples, seldom finds the back of the net more than once in a game.
This had been coming for awhile.
The Portland Timbers have long been among the lowest scoring teams yet were among the top teams in Major League Soccer at taking shots–and shots on goals–in the league.
Two months ago, shortly after acquiring Lucas Melano, Timbers Head Coach Caleb Porter mentioned the Timbers offense was “at the cusp of opening the floodgates.”
That prophesy came to fruition last Sunday as the Timbers soundly defeated the LA Galaxy 5-2 in what Porter called the “biggest win” the in the club’s MLS history. Intriguingly enough the only other time that Portland has scored five goals was in Carson, a 5-0 victory over Chivas USA on October 26, 2013.
Sunday’s win marked the first time the Timbers beat the Galaxy in Carson. All the more remarkable is the Galaxy simply do not lose at home. Prior to Sunday’s match, the Galaxy have lost only twice over the last two seasons at home, a span of 38 games.*
* The Galaxy previous home losses were both 1-0 losses to Real Salt Lake in March, 2014 and to Vancouver this June by the same margin.
Now the Timbers can climb as high as second in the West provided they win on Sunday (versus Colorado) and the LA Galaxy (at Sporting KC) and Vancouver Whitecaps (versus Houston).
In order to beat Colorado on Sunday though, Portland will need to break the team’s two-month long home scoring drought.
Colorado may be the worst team in the West but they are hardly playing like it. The Rapids went into Kansas and defeated Sporting Kansas City 2-0, even playing down a man.
That loss could prove costly to Sporting who face LA. Even if they lose, Sporting can still get in provided San Jose just doesn’t win their match against FC Dallas. FC Dallas may be atop the Western Conference but still have plenty to play for: A win for FC Dallas (and a subsequent loss to the New York Red Bulls) would secure the Supporter’s Shield for FC Dallas. The Supporter’s Shield would be the second major trophy for an MLS original team (Open Cup 1997).
Back to the Galaxy a team that had the look of world-beaters a month ago, they now look fairly pedestrian going 1-3-2 and collecting five points over nearly sixty days.
LA isn’t scorching in CONCACAF Champions League either, surrendering the equalizing goal in the 93rd minute to Comunicaciones FC in Guatemala City on Wednesday. The result makes Galaxy a five seed in the competition meaning they will next face Mexico’s Santos Laguna in the quarterfinals.
In his postmatch remarks on Saturday, Galaxy Head Coach Bruce Arena did not mince words: “If you look at individual battles, their eleven against our eleven; they just thoroughly dominated us in a physical nature I’d say. It wasn’t tactical, it wasn’t anything more than I thought their desire to win that game and fight and work was much greater than ours.”
Regardless of any of the #DecisionDay outcomes, the Galaxy have clinched a playoff spot. With only a reeling Sporting Kansas City side left to play, they can still earn the two-seed with a win on Sunday.
Sunday can show if the Galaxy are still the dominant side everyone saw this summer. It will be the opportunity to see if the Timbers win was the template for beating the MLS version of a super team or if the Timbers were merely the pail of cold water that woke the sleeping giant.