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Wednesday's 5-2 win over Los Angeles at Providence Park clinches playoff spot for Portland

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - With this early header, the first of his two goals Wednesday, Timbers forward Jaroslaw Niezgoda gave Portland a quick lead its 5-2 win over the LA Galaxy.The once mighty LA Galaxy arrived in Portland on Wednesday desperate for a win to keep alive slim MLS playoff hopes.

But any concern that a desperate opponent would give the Timbers trouble evaporated quickly as Portland emphatically shoved the Galaxy to the brink of elimination.

Jaroslaw Niezgoda scored twice in the first 20 minutes, Yimmi Chara had three assists and the Timbers strode to a 5-2 win at Providence Park. The victory secures a spot in the MLS Cup playoffs with three matches remaining.

"The guys played a fantastic match," Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said. "From the beginning to the end, we looked like a mature team. We moved the ball well."

The result improves Portland to 10-5-5 (35 points). The Timbers remain third in the Western Conference, tied on points with Seattle and one point behind Sporting Kansas City, which won 1-0 Wednesday at FC Cincinnati to remain first.

The Galaxy (5-11-3, 18 points) remain at the bottom of the 12-team Western Conference, six points back of the eighth and final playoff spot with three matches remaining.

Offensively, the five goals bring Portland into a tie with Los Angeles FC with 44 goals, the most in MLS this season.

Yimmi Chara had three assists and earned a penalty kick that Diego Valeri converted in the first half as Portland built a 3-0 lead in the first half-hour of the match.

The younger Chara's growing comfort has been noticeable — he played 90 minutes in the two previous matches and 84 on Wednesday, evidence that his fitness has been restored after an injury at the MLS is Back Tournament slowed his transition to MLS.

Yimmi Chara has supplied a significant boost since Portland lost Sebastian Blanco to a knee injury.

More than speed, Chara's quickness and ability to get into good areas certainly troubled the Galaxy defense on Wednesday. He assisted on Portland's first, fourth and fifth goals and now has seven assists to go with three goals in his first season joining older brother Diego in Portland.

Yimmi Chara said the confidence his teammates have in him has helped him transition to MLS.

"They make me feel very comfortable, and I can transmit that in the field," Chara said through a translator.

Savarese said the club knew it would take Chara time to learn the league and his role with the Timbers, and that getting healthy has allowed him to play "at a very top level" for three consecutive games.

"He's finally reached a level in which he feels very comfortable. He understands much better our principles and what we ask him to look for," Saverese said.

Cristian Pavon scored both goals for the Galaxy, including 17 seconds into the second half after a giveaway by Timbers goalkeeper to give the visitors life. Moments later Pavon forced Clark to make a save, and it briefly looked like the Galaxy had life.

That LA momentum disappeared in the 60th minute when Eryk Williamson scored his third goal of the season, spinning Galaxy defender Daniel Steres and finishing with his left foot.

Yimmi Chara won possession off a LA throw-in and sent a forward pass to Niezgoda, who rolled a pass to his left to put Williamson in position.

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Andy Polo follows through on his right-footed volley that produced the final goal for the Portland Timbers on Wednesday in a 5-2 win over the LA Galaxy at Providence Park.A spectacular volley from Andy Polo — who came on in the second half for his first appearance since Sept. 27 because of time with Peru's national team — made it 5-1 in the 74th minute. Polo made perfect contact with a floated ball from Yimmi Chara.

Portland conceded another stoppage time goal — a rebound finish for Pavon in the 91st minute — but the Timbers attack had put away the three points long before that.

The scoring fun for Portland began in the sixth minute. A combination on the left wing set up Jorge Villafana to clip a ball into the box. Niezgoda ran to his left and re-directed a header inside the left post for his first of the night.

Niezgoda's second goal came in the 19th minute. On a recycled Portland possession from a free kick, Pablo Bonilla stepped into a shot from outside the box that Niezgoda redirected into the goal.

The third goal was a Valeri penalty kick at the half-hour mark, an opportunity set up when Yimmi Chara's attempt to chip a ball from the end-line caught the arm of sliding defender Nicholas DePuy.

Including the MLS is Back Tournament, the Timbers scored 15 goals over four matches against the Galaxy this season in three wins and one loss.

With Niezgoda's two goals, the Timbers now have four players with at least seven goals — the most balanced attack in the league. Valeri has eight goals. Jeremy Ebobisse, who missed his second game as he recovers from concussion symptoms, also has eight goals. Niezgoda and Felipe More each have seven.

Williamson is the sixth Portland player with at least three goals.

Portland will play Vancouver at 7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 1, at Providence Park. The Timbers are home against Colorado at 7 p.m. Nov. 4 before wrapping up the regular season at 3:30 p.m. Nov. 8 at Los Angeles FC.

The top four teams will be home for at least the first playoff game, and the higher up the standings the Timbers play the more potential home games they earn.

The Galaxy were without attacker Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez because of an undisclosed injury.


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