Skip to content

MLS Preview: Portland Timbers at LA Galaxy

Jun 19, 2013, 5:58 PM EDT

Landon Donovan
  • Portland on a 13-match unbeaten run
  • Galaxy have allowed eight goals in their last two games
  • LA took nine of nine points from Portland last season

Remember that one time Caleb Porter lost a Major League Soccer game? Unless you’re a Timbers or Montréal Impact fan, you might not, because that single loss came in the season’s second round, before narratives around the league’s two most surprising teams became entrenched. But now, three-and-a-half months into the season, that March meeting at JELD-WEN looks like one of the more important games of the young season. The East-leading Impact remain the only team to derail Portland, while the Timbers have a 13-match unbeaten run.

If Portland’s to catch FC Dallas’s record of 19 without a loss (set in 2010), they’ll have to navigate a six-match stretch that includes four road games and two meetings with the defending champion Galaxy. But for a team that’d only won two road games in their MLS history coming into the season, games away from JELD-WEN suddenly pose surprisingly few fewer concerns. The Timbers have MLS’s only unbeaten record away from home (2-0-6).

The Galaxy games, however, could reintroduce an element Portland hasn’t dealtwith since the beginning of their run: Doubt. Coming into the year, the Timbers needed to prove their new coach’s concepts would lead to results, something that became evident by the middle of April. Since then the team has pushed on, become a confident, efficient team that’s as capable of opportunistic wins as impressive results. Yet although the Timbers have proved themselves against conference leaders (FC Dallas), league stalwarts (Dom Kinnear’s Houston), and some of the league’s most talented squads (Sporting Kansas City), the one true benchmark remains.

There is something different about the Galaxy. Two-time league champions, managed by the league’s best coach of all time, possessing transcendant talents like Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, Los Angeles is a unique challenge no matter the circumstances. The MLS embodiment of Atreyu’s mirror, LA engender doubts in anyone, not just the Timbers. Even without Omar Gonzalez, away on national team duty, the Galaxy are capable of presenting a greater challenge than any team in Major League Soccer. Even if they only sit fifth in the West, if LA decides tonight meeting in Carson’s a big game, recent history says they’re likely to win it.

Whether the Galaxy are capable of flipping the switch right now is a point of concern. Two weeks ago, the team was routed in New England, an embarrassing 5-0 loss that failed to serve as a wakeup call ahead of last week 3-1 defeat in Utah. Without Gonzalez, the team’s allowed eight goals in two games, terrible form to carry into a match against one of the league’s best attacks.

Unfortunately for the Timbers, their weaknesses play into LA’s greatest strength. Depleted by injuries at the back (having lost and Mikael Silvestre and David Horst while Futty Danso left Saturday’s win over Dallas), Portland will be particularly susceptible to a league best counter attack that’s buttressed back-to-back titles. Will Johnson and Diego Chara have done a great job protecting their center backs from other team’s counters, but other teams don’t have Donovan pulling the strings, Keane making the runs. Particularly away from the snug confines of JELD-WEN Field, Portland could see their vulnerabilities exposed.

There is, however the case to be made for Johnson and Chara. As well as the help they get from Darlington Nagbe and Diego Valeri, the support they receive as an outlet from Michael Harrington, as well as the disaster insurance that is right back Jack Jewsbury. Look beyond the drawbacks of Pa Modou Kah and Andrew Jean Baptiste and you see a complete picture that explains why a defense that was seen as a preseason liability has yet to pose a significant problem. The pieces around the men in the middle are compensating for the issue.

And against an LA central midfield that’s failed to assert itself this year — one that will be without Marcelo Sarvas (suspended, yellow card accumulation) — Portland may be able to claim another result. Without his partner, Juninho will need to find the form he carried through the middle of last season. Given his talents, that only seems like a matter of time, but unless he can pick up his game against a Timbers system that sends numbers at opponents with each change of possession, the Galaxy will have a difficult time springing those nightmare-inducing counters.

Regardless of who wins, we’re like to learn something tonight at StubHub Center (10:30 p.m. EDT kickoff). If Portland wins and climbs to the top of the West, they’ll send another notice to the rest of the league, claiming as validating result against the league’s standard-bearers. And if LA derails a team that carries a 13-match unbeaten into Carson, it will be affirm their place as the league’s true litmus test, rendering any contenders’ progress irrelevant until they’re tested against the defending champions.

Other notes: Omar Gonzalez will miss tonight’s match while on international duty. José Villarreal is also gone, with the U.S. U-20s, while Portland will be without Rodney Wallace, returning from international duty with Coast Rica … Los Angeles took all nine points from Portland last year, scoring five times in the team’s last meeting … Portland have never earned a point in Carson … Brian Rowe got the start last week in Utah. Few Galaxy fans would be upset if he keeps the struggling Carlo Cudicini on the bench … Todd Dunivant returned to full training this week. He could start only his third game in nine … Portland’s unbeaten run is the 10th-longest in MLS history … The run leaves Porter tied with Tom Soehn for the longest streak for a first-year head coach. Soehn did the same with D.C. United in 2008.

Latest Posts
  1. VIDEO: Peru take early lead. Is USMNT’s Omar Gonzalez to blame?

    Sep 4, 2015, 8:48 PM EDT

    Brad Guzan Brad Guzan

    U.S. trailed 1-0 at the break after this goal from Chavez via Gonzalez’s back.

  2. Reports: Pogba turned down Chelsea move despite offer of $275,000 per week

    Sep 4, 2015, 8:00 PM EDT

    Juventus v S.S. Lazio - 2015 Italian Super Cup Getty Images

    Paul Pogba was wanted by every club in the world this summer, but even some pretty massive wages couldn’t bring him to leave Juventus.

  3. FOLLOW LIVE: USMNT takes on Peru in important tune-up match (Lineups)

    Sep 4, 2015, 7:02 PM EDT

    Panama v United States Getty Images

    Tonight’s match may be a friendly, but it’s way more than that for Jurgen Klinsmann and the United States.

  4. Tottenham’s Emmanuel Adebayor fails to report for international duty with Togo

    Sep 4, 2015, 5:57 PM EDT

    FBL-ENG-FA CUP-TOTTENHAM-LEICESTER Getty Images

    After being essentially cut from Tottenham, Adebayor was a no-show for his national team.

  5. EURO 2016 qualifying roundup: Germany downs Poland, Keane sets records for Ireland

    Sep 4, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwixmde5zjc2mta3nmi0yta0zmmwngnmothlmmzhntnh AP

    Mario Gotze’s brace led Germany to a big win at home, while Robbie Keane became the all-time leading goalscorer in EURO qualifying history.

  6. Manchester United calls Real Madrid’s handling of De Gea transfer “clumsy”

    Sep 4, 2015, 4:04 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwnjytliymewnjuzzwnjogm3mjrmytc1nzawmja3ytu3 AP

    The transfer window may have closed, but the war of words between Manchester United and Real Madrid is still going strong.

  7. Bournemouth’s record-signing Tyrone Mings ruled out for rest of season with knee injury

    Sep 4, 2015, 3:10 PM EDT

    Bournemouth v Philadelphia Union Getty Images

    A massive loss for the Cherries as Tyrone Mings’ season is over after tearing his ACL and MCL against Leicester City.

  8. WATCH: On Japan duty, Shinji Kagawa flubs a sitter of the most comfortable variety

    Sep 4, 2015, 2:11 PM EDT

    Cambodia's goalkeeper Sou Yaty falls on the ground upon getting a goal by Japan's Shinji Kagawa (10), top second right, as Japan's Yoshinori Muto (14), Cambodia's Say Piseth (4) and others look back during their second round soccer match of regional qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup in Saitama, north of Tokyo Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015. Japan defeated Cambodia 3-0 to secure its first win of World Cup qualifying. (Tsuyoshi Ueda/Kyodo News via AP) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT AP

    We need a bigger term than sitter for this Japan miss. Sofa? Futon? Beanbag chair?

  9. With two friendlies before the Confederations Cup playoff, who should be the USMNT’s center back pair?

    Sep 4, 2015, 1:09 PM EDT

    FILE - In this Nov. 19, 2013 file photo, the United States national soccer team poses prior to the start their friendly soccer match between Austria and the United States in Vienna, Austria. Background from left: Omar Gonzalez, Tim Howard, Geoff Cameron, John Brooks, Michael Bradley and Brek Shea. Foreground from left: Jermaine Jones, DaMarcus Beasley, Alejandro Bedoya, Aron Johannsson and Jozy Altidore.  (AP Photo/Hans Punz, File) AP

    The USMNT’s Tinkerman takes a lot of risks with his formation and use of his best players (See: Bradley, Michael), but there is at least one area where we just don’t get it: center backs.

  10. PHOTO: Can this cigarette disposal unit end the Messi vs. Ronaldo debate (at least in London)?

    Sep 4, 2015, 11:24 AM EDT

    CNaarYiWoAAxXqT

    Who knew we could’ve settled this whole thing ages ago, just by asking smokers in England?

  11. CONCACAF World Cup qualifying preview: Canada, Jamaica hope to avoid upsets; USMNT to learn group mates

    Sep 4, 2015, 10:40 AM EDT

    HOUSTON, TX - JULY 11:  Cyle Larin #21 of Canada avoids pressure from Jermaine Taylor #21 of Jamaica and Je-Vaughan Watson #15 at BBVA Compass Stadium on July 11, 2015 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The Yanks will face the winners of two two-legged ties: Saint Vincent and the Grenadines vs. Aruba, and Antigua and Barbuda vs. Guatemala.

  12. WATCH: New Spurs forward Son’s hat trick helps South Korea let loose on Laos

    Sep 4, 2015, 9:49 AM EDT

    South Korea's Son Heung-min, right, scores his first goal as Laos's Pinkeo Khamla tries to block it during their Asian zone Group G qualifying soccer match for the 2018 World Cup at  Hwaseong Sports Complex Main Stadium in Hwaseong, South Korea, Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015. South Korea won 8-0.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon) AP

    Son scored in the 12th, 74th and 89th minutes of South Korea’s 8-0 win over Laos in AFC World Cup qualifying on Thursday.

  13. MLS preview: Sounders vs. Toronto FC, Crew SC vs. FC Dallas headline Week 27

    Sep 4, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    Clint Dempsey, Seattle Sounders FC Clint Dempsey, Seattle Sounders FC

    Week 27 is upon, and though international call-ups have decimated a number of teams, this weekend’s MLS action should still be decent.

  14. Real Madrid’s Perez says De Gea move failed because Manchester United lacks transfer “experience”

    Sep 4, 2015, 8:22 AM EDT

    MADRID, SPAIN - JUNE 09:  Real Madrid President Florentino Perez gives as speech as he attends the 7th edition of the 'Catedra Real Madrid' Project at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on June 9, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Perez says a move that should’ve taken an hour “took eight”, and blasted the Red Devils’ chairman by using examples from 2013.

  15. Providence and its big American striker Mac Steeves are off to a red-hot start (video)

    Sep 4, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    PC Men's soccer versus Monmouth, Aug. 30, 2015. (Photo/Stew Milne) PC Men's soccer versus Monmouth, Aug. 30, 2015. (Photo/Stew Milne)

    A 6-foot-4 American striker has Providence aiming for another College Cup, and U.S. Soccer fans on notice.

  16. Now flush with “Candy Crush” cash, Derby County aiming for Premier League return

    Sep 3, 2015, 9:39 PM EDT

    Derby County v Reading - Capital One Cup Third Round Getty Images

    As it turns out, Candy Crush was worth a lot of money. So much money, in fact, that Mel Morris bought his boyhood football club.

  17. Preview: USMNT to face Peru in tune-up for CONCACAF playoff vs. Mexico

    Sep 3, 2015, 8:37 PM EDT

    Panama v United States: Third Place - 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup Panama v United States: Third Place - 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup

    The USMNT returns to action for the first time since finishing fourth at the 2015 Gold Cup. Their playoff vs. Mexico is 37 days away.

  18. Italy’s Serie B to introduce “green cards” for good behavior this weekend

    Sep 3, 2015, 6:45 PM EDT

    Modena FC v AC Cesena - Serie B Playoffs Getty Images

    This weekend, referees will begin dishing out green cards, which mean absolutely nothing.

Featured video

PST Extra: Analyzing transfer deadline day