The LA Galaxy opted to use a defensive-minded lineup for Wednesday’s match against the Portland Timbers. Julian Araujo, traditionally a fullback, moved up to right with Rolf Feltscher on the back line. Efrain Álvarez and Sebastian Lletget both also started on the bench, leaving the Galaxy lacking in firepower.
Interestingly, it wasn’t the offense that suffered so much as the defense in a disastrous first half in Portland. The Timbers were patient and easily found openings on offense despite L.A. committing numbers to that end and scored three goals in the first 30 minutes en route to a 5-2 win.
The Galaxy earned the first corner kick of the game in the third minute, but there was nothing to it.
On the ensuing possession, the Timbers calmly brought the ball down the left flank with no pressure. Jorge Villafaña sent a cross into the box and Jaroslaw Niezgoda was unmarked as he headed the ball into the back post. L.A.’s defensive blueprint had come apart in just the sixth minute.
Credit to the Galaxy, as they continued to apply pressure upfield, resulting in two more corner kicks. Yony González had a great header that hit the right post, just a few inches shy of an equalizer. The problem with the Galaxy’s attacks was that they didn’t have anyone in the center of the field. All of their forwards prefer to operate from the wings, so when Pavón or González got the ball on the flank, they’d have to slow until someone filled the box or just cross to no one in particular.
Portland, meanwhile, was supremely comfortable on the attack. They got corners nearly every time they had possession in the final third, and it was as if the Galaxy defenders were chasing shadows. On one instance, Perry Kitchen laid into Carlos Harvey because he was hopelessly out of sorts on his marking.
In the 18th minute, Daniel Steres conceded a corner. The Galaxy cleared away the kick, but Villafaña was faster to the ball. His shot from outside the box was deflected and somehow found its way to Pablo Bonilla. Bonilla’s cross was perfectly placed at Niezgoda’s head, and the Timber forward got his brace.
The game got worse quickly, as the Galaxy lost any momentum going forward. In the 29th minute, Nicholas DePuy attempted to slide tackle the ball out of bounds, but he brought his arm up to deflect the cross into the box, resulting in a handball. Diego Valeri sank the penalty to put Portland up three at the half.
During intermission, Guillermo Barros Schelotto brought Lletget and Sacha Kljestan in place of Araujo and Harvey. That immediately brought life to L.A.’s offense. Seventeen seconds into the period, Lletget collected a giveaway from the Portland back line, sent the ball into the box past a dummy from González, and Pavón put the Galaxy on the board.
Cristian Pavon needs to put us back in the game with his eighth goal in 2020 pic.twitter.com/p3FVXLNywM— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) October 29, 2020
That goal gave the Galaxy yet another lift, and they responded with their best 10-minute stretch of the game. Feltscher had a couple sharp crosses into the middle, and Pavón had a great run down the center of the field in which he beat the last defender with a nutmeg but couldn’t get a good angle on the keeper.
Unfortunately, while L.A. was putting pressure, Portland was just waiting to pounce on a mistake. The Timbers found it when the Galaxy bungled a throw-in on the defensive end. Eryk Williamson picked up the pieces, broke Steres’ ankles, and shot one past Jonathan Klinsmann to make it 4-1 and essentially end the Galaxy’s hopes.
Andy Polo and Pavón each knocked in one additional goal to get to the final tally — Polo’s was a beauty on a side volley — but it was academic once Williamson put the Timbers back up three. This was a disastrous effort from the Galaxy, the type of performance that has sadly become commonplace from this team in recent weeks.