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TRIBUNE PHOTO: DIEGO G. DIAZ - Zarek Valentin celebrates his goal for the Portland Timbers in Saturday's 2-1 loss at home to the Los Angeles Galaxy.It wasn’t too long ago that the Portland Timbers played the Los Angeles Galaxy at Providence Park. It was on June 29, in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, and the Timbers lost 1-0.


Neither team had a full-strength squad that day — primarily because of the recent Copa America and the limit on international participants in the U.S. Open Cup. That wasn’t the case on Saturday; both teams were at or near full-strength.

The Galaxy (9-8-3) won 2-1 thanks to goals in the seventh minute by Robbie Keane and 11th minute by Gyasi Zardes. Despite a 59-percent clip in possession and an 18-9 advantage in shots, the Timbers (7-8-7) couldn’t muster a point in front of their home fans.

“We knew it was going to be a little ugly,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “The field got tough to play on in the second half, but I think our biggest mistake was conceding a goal at the end of the first half.”

All momentum appeared to be on the side of the Galaxy after the Timbers conceded the first two goals of the match in short order. Keane’s goal came on a gorgeous cross from Giovani dos Santos, and Zardes scored on a header thanks to a cross from Emmanuel Boateng.

Timbers goalkeeper Jake Gleeson appeared frustrated after his back line failed him and put Portland in a tough spot. He attributed the goals to little mistakes and plain bad luck.

“We just took a little while to get going, and we didn’t make the plays we needed,” Gleeson said. “It was one of those things where the guys have been so good all year in the box, and things just didn’t fall our way.”

A glimmer of hope for the Timbers came in the 41st minute as Darlington Nagbe felt the pressure of three Galaxy defenders and played the ball off to defender Zarek Valentin, who rifled it into the back of the net and pumped his fist in celebration — sending the Timbers Army into a frenzy.

Valentin’s goal was his first as a member of the Timbers.

“At the end of the day, it’s very bittersweet,” the well-spoken 24-year-old out of Akron said of his goal. “I think we deserved a better result, and I think it was a good overall performance. We had them pinned back in the second half.”

Minutes later, defending Keane, Nat Borchers went down with an apparent lower leg injury for the Timbers and had to be taken off on a stretcher by trainers as halftime approached.

The Timbers controlled the pace of the second half and gave themselves ample opportunity to tie the match and escape with at least a point.

Whether it was a chance for Nagbe that was cut short when he collided with teammate Diego Valeri, or a play where Lucas Melano slipped and lost possession after beating his marker inside the six-yard box, the second half was filled with squandered opportunities for the Timbers.

Coach Caleb Porter said it comes down to making plays in those moments.

“The better you play, the less positions the opponent is in to score,” Porter said. “But ultimately the result comes down to one thing, and that’s the boxes and making plays. (The Galaxy) made one more play than us even though we had twice as many chances.”

Next up for the Timbers is a road tilt with Sporting Kansas City on Sunday, July 31, at 11 a.m. PT.

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