Timbers settle for 1-1 road draw with LA Galaxy
Playing for the first time since May 18, the Portland Timbers' attempt to nurse a one-goal lead to the finish line failed on Saturday, June 18, when they settled for a 1-1 draw in a road match against the LA Galaxy.
Yimmi Chara, after going eight MLS matches without scoring, scored his fourth goal of the season on a well-executed counter in the first half.
But, Portland couldn't add a second goal and LA eventually broke through late after making the Timbers defend deep for significant stretches of the second half.
Timbers, 38th minute — Yimmi Chara scores his fourth of the season with a quality left-footed finish at the end of a crisp Portland counterattack, fueled by one-touch passes from Larrys Mabiala to Cristhian Paredes to Sebastian Blanco in space on the left side. Chara out-sprinted the Galaxy midfield, then made two quick touches on the run to set up his finish. 1-0 Timbers.
Galaxy, 88th minute — Dejan Joveljic delivered a strong snap header, beating Larrys Mabiala on a near-post run to meet a cross from the right wing delivered by Julian Araujo. 1-1 tie.
Big picture — There was plenty to build upon from an energetic performance against a talented opponent on the road. But, to drop two points with another late, late goal from an opponent has to be deflating to a team whose margin for error is growing slimmer. At 3-6-7, the Timbers have 16 points through 16 games — the lowest point total in the club's MLS history this deep into a season. They sit 12th in the Western Conference, only four points off of the playoff line but with four teams below that line ahead of Portland.
Fine details — After almost every match this season, the theme of coach Giovanni Savarese's comments has included "cleaning up little details." On Saturday, the Timbers' inability to possess the ball in the second half was costly. The most costly detail was substitute Marvin Loria leaving space and time for Araujo to deliver a quality cross to the near post on the tying goal.
Living on the edge — As Blanco noted in his post-match comments, a one-goal lead on the road is difficult to maintain against a team as talented as the Galaxy. The Timbers took seven shots from inside the penalty area, but put only two shots on target in the game, leaving an opening for the Galaxy to score a late tying goal. In fact, LA (most of their 10 corner kicks in the second half) had several chances beside the tying goal, including a point-blank Chicharito chance that somehow skewed across the front of the goal.
Solid start — Portland came out with more urgency than LA and created several half-chances in the early minutes of each half by Portland forwards pressing to win back possession and forcing Galaxy giveaways in the Timbers' attacking third. The best of those chances was a quick combination setting up a Santiago Moreno shot from a tight angle that goalkeeper Jonathan Bond parried away in the fifth minute.
(Of course, fans without the ESPN App missed it because a College World Series game, like they all do ran long, bumping the start of the MLS match off of ESPN. This is a problem that won't happen next season, thanks to the new agreement between Apple and MLS to stream all matches).
A statistically even first half felt like Portland was the better team for longer stretches, though the goal came seconds after an excellent Galaxy opportunity for Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez.
Better on the flanks — This was one of the better performances in 2022 from Portland's outside backs, and it came against a team with a lot of talent on the flanks. The return of Claudio Bravo at left back was a big plus and Josecarlos Van Rankin, whose loan expires at the end of June — which raises questions about his future in Portland — put in one of his most consistent performances of the season at right back.
Defending on the edge of red — Portland central defender Larrys Mabiala picked up a 10th-minute yellow card for a foul on Chicharito. At the half-hour mark, Mabiala was fortunate not to get a second yellow for a foul near the top of the box. He will miss next week's match against Colorado, but managed to make it through this match, pulling out of a challenge in the second half that was reviewed by VAR for possible penalty.
Getting healthy — Jaroslaw Niezgoda played 60 minutes after missing the previous four matches; Felipe Mora played the final 15 minutes or so, his first action of this season; Bravo had missed the last six MLS contests, plus the U.S. Open Cup game; Eryk Williamson, injured on May 22, was available on the bench.
It will take time for Mora to build up the fitness to be able to start, but if Portland can start to climb the table, having Mora fresh might give the Timbers an edge come the stretch run of the season.
Ivacic strong again — Whatever shortcomings the Timbers have experienced during the first half of the season, the play of goalkeeper Aljaz Ivacic has been a bright spot replacing the departed Steve Clark. Of Ivacic's four saves Saturday, three were athletic stops, including twice early in the contest turning away LA's Victor Vazquez — on a well-struck free kick and a close-range chance.
Savarese's take: "We're disappointed that we didn't win, but the energy and the way we play today, this is this is our team. … I'm sure that keeping this intensity, keeping this desire to play, we will win many more matches."
Next Timbers match — Colorado at Portland, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 25.
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