The Buzzsaw: Timbers at LA Galaxy
Raise your hand if you saw Norberto Paparatto making Team of the Week.
That’s how well things are going.
Hardly a month after taking a brutal 3-1 defeat in Texas, the Timbers rolled over the Houston Dynamo 2-0 at Providence Park on Saturday. Maxi Urruti’s flick on of Jorge Villafana’s perfectly placed free kick gave the Green & Gold a first half advantage, from which they would not look back. A Gaston Fernandez penalty (!) doubled Portland’s lead and punctuated a decisive victory.
The winning streak is now up to four in the league and five overall.
A big part of the Timbers’ run has been achieving firsts: wins in Colorado and Tukwila and the uncharted territory of three (and counting) Ws. In order for this fantastic run to continue, there will have to be one more first: a win over the Galaxy at StubHub Center.
Bruce Arena’s club sit fourth in the West, tied on points with the Timbers, despite having played two more games. Usually a model (the model) of consistency in MLS, the Galaxy have had a rocky start to life post-Landon Donovan. Offense, however, hasn’t been the problem. The team that conceded only 37 goals in all of 2014 has already let in 20 this year in just 18 games.
Portland’s stingy defense has only conceded 14.
Having talisman Robbie Keane out injured for 10 of LA’s last 15 games hasn’t helped either. The Irishman has started only five times overall, but returned in full force last week as the Galaxy drubbed the Philadelphia Union 5-1. As the Southern Californians patiently await the arrival of Steven Gerrard to cure what ails them, Gyasi Zardes and—of all people—Alan Gordon have carried the offensive load. Last week aside, LA has done it with smoke, mirrors, and timely scoring. The Timbers know that well.
The Galaxy’s other strength is one of Portland’s historical weaknesses: set pieces. The trio of Baggio Husidic, Stefan Ishizaki, and Juninho provide some of the league’s best service. Considering the Timbers’s struggle to contain Brad Davis in Houston a few weeks ago, it will be a real challenge fending off three of similar quality.
A depleted Portland took LA to the limit in week 2, only conceding the draw in second half stoppage time. The bad news is, that was in Portland and, again, the Timbers have never beaten the Galaxy at home, with only 2 points at StubHub (née Home Depot) Center.
Caleb Porter knows a thing or two about willing points from adverse situations, yet for all of Portland’s injury concerns throughout 2015, this team is on the cusp of full strength. It’s only a matter of time before Diego Valeri regains his starting spot. Coupled with Maxi Urruti’s form and Gaston Fernandez’s strengthening desire to earn playing time.
They’ll have to be at full strength to pull off yet another “first” in this run of uncharted success. A win in LA will prove that this team is hotter than anything the forecast, or the schedule, can throw at us.