After two workmanlike 1-0 wins, and an unexpected nine-day break between games, the Portland Timbers needed their offense on Wednesday, Oct. 7, to extend their string to four wins.
And, boy, did it produce.
For the second time in as many trips to California, the Timbers scored six times in a road win, this one a 6-3 thumping of a reeling LA Galaxy team. Less than three weeks after scoring six goals in a match for the first time in MLS, Portland did it again.
Felipe Mora and Jeremy Ebobisse each scored twice and Diego Valeri and Larrys Mabiala tallied goals in an entertaining performance at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.
"The majority of the goals scored today were good goals, good play, good buildup and finding the right pass to make sure that we score the goal," Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said. "With that mindset, everything is possible. But guys need to continue to improve."
Portland improved to 8-4-3 (27 points) and remains second in the MLS Western Conference, three points behind Seattle. The Galaxy dropped their fifth in a row and remains last in the conference with a 4-8-3 record.
Twice the Timbers saw two-goal leads sliced to one goal, but Portland used the large field at the Galaxy's home park to its advantage and took control of the match.
Along the way, Valeri delivered another special moment, Ebobisse experienced a first while equaling a club record by playing in a 72nd consecutive Timbers match and Mora continued to look at home in the striker position.
All of which was too much for the Galaxy, who were always in chase mode despite a quality strike from right back Julian Araujo in the first half and a goal and assist from Cristian Pavon after halftime.
Portland's 2-1 halftime lead quickly became 3-1 with a magical goal from Valeri, who was able hold off defender Nicholas DePuy to chip an angled shot beyond the reach of goalkeeper David Bingham. It was a goal-of-the-week level effort, but it wasn't the most special goal of the night.
That came from the left foot of Ebobisse, whose free-kick rocket could not be stopped by Bingham as the Timbers took a 2-0 lead in the 23rd minute.
The surprise wasn't that Ebobisse converted his first free kick attempt in a MLS match. The surprise was that he took it.
With the ball 20 yards in front of goal, Valeri seemed poised to strike with his right foot. Instead, Ebobisse sent a strong shot around the defending wall for his first goal of the night.
"We've seen that type of goal in practice from JeBo, so I'm glad he was able to strike it in the way he did," Savarese said.
"I was relieved, because anytime you ask someone of (Valeri's) quality to take his shot, you have to make good use of it," Ebobisse said, noting that he hadn't taken a free kick in a match in some time. "I kind of went on a hunch. So to be able to execute like that on that given play was really validating in my own belief."
As a stalwart who has equaled Darlington Nagbe by appearing in 72 consecutive matches, Ebobisse clearly has grown in confidence. Still, asking Valeri to take a free kick was a new experience.
"That just speaks to (Valeri's) character," Ebobisse said. "He could have been on the scoresheet on that play, but he chose to give it to someone who's never taken a free kick for this team. I'm really appreciative of that, and that's the kind of leadership we have on this team."
Ebobisse's second goal made it 6-3, essentially finishing the job in the 80th minute with a calm finish after getting clipped by a defender. It came on a quick combination play around the top of the 18-yard box, with Ebobisse making the most of a touch pass from Eryk Williamson.
Mora's two goals were simpler finishes, but that's because the Chilean striker found space to convert nice set-up passes from Yimmi Chara in the 14th minute and from Jorge Villafana in the 60th minute.
The second of those was critical because it came five minutes after the Galaxy pulled within 3-2. Three minutes later a Valeri free kick was headed on target by Dario Zuparic. When Bingham couldn't control the ball, Mabiala was there for the finish and his first goal of the season.
The Timbers had control of the match for the first half hour and a 2-0 lead.
Mora scored his fifth of the season in the 14th minute with a left-footed finish from six yards. Diego Chara sent a pass forward that brother Yimmi Chara tracked down deep in the penalty area before cutting a pass to the open Mora. Both Chara brothers got assists on the play.
Ebobisse made it 2-0 in the 23rd minute. His sixth goal of the season was his first in MLS from a direct free kick. The 20-yard shot whipped around the wall and had too much power for goalkeeper Bingham.
The first Galaxy goal was a career first for Araujo, who delivered a well-struck shot along the ground through traffic. The 30-yard effort came after Portland cleared the initial corner kick delivery. Araujo took a touch and drove his shot beyond the reach of Timbers goalkeeper Steve Clark.
That goal injected life into the home team. The Galaxy kept the Timbers defending deep in their own end for much of the rest of the first half.
"We could have moved the ball a little bit quicker those last 15 minutes of the first half in which we suffered a little bit," Savarese said. "But, overall, going forward we did very, very well."
The Timbers will want to take advantage of their 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 10, home match (without fans, of course) against the San Jose side they throttled 6-1 on Sept. 16. That is the first of eight games over four weeks to complete the regular season.
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