Portland Timbers: Lost in the Galaxy
Los Angeles, CA – The (3-6-4) Portland Timbers sophomore MLS slump has continued into June after yet another disappointing loss in Los Angeles. It seemed as though last month’s U.S. Open Cup collapse against Cal FC of the USASA would be rock bottom for the young MLS side, but the heartaches just seem to keep coming in Portland.
Sunday’s 1-0 loss to the LA Galaxy moves the Timbers into a tie for last place in the Western Conference along side FC Dallas. With a crucial Cascadian Cup match next week against the rival Seattle Sounders, Portland needs to revamp their offense averaging less than one goal per game over the last month.
The Timbers were shut out for the fifth time on Sunday in a match that seemed like a microcosm of the entire season.
The Timbers came into Sunday looking to grab their first win in Los Angeles after putting up a 0-3-0 record at the Home Depot Center over their MLS career. The match pitted two of the Western Conference’s bottom dwellers both trying to make a move in the standings. The season has been especially disheartening for the LA Galaxy after they brought home the MLS Cup last season.
A mixture of injuries and suspensions has the defending champions scrapping to get points after a slow start. The game would be a catalyst for whichever side could take the three points after a three week break in the MLS schedule. Despite the importance of the game, both sides came out flat.
The game was wide open for the first twenty minutes as both midfields struggled to cover ground, leaving space for the teams to get creative. The Timbers out possessed the Galaxy for most of the first half but struggled to find effective chances as newly acquired forward Danny Mwanga adjusted to the pace of Portland. The best opportunity of the first half came when Galaxy Captain, Landon Donovan, broke away from the Timber defense.
After chasing down a wayward pass, Donovan ripped a shot from 20 yards out past Portland goalie Troy Perkins. The shot smashed off the right goalpost and into to the Timbers defense. The action continued not too shortly after when Timbers’ forward Kris Boyd tried his hand at a long-range blast. From about 35 yards out, Boyd launched a ball off his right foot that was stopped by the outstretched arm of Galaxy keeper Josh Saunders. The rest of the half was a battle of the midfields and the sides went into halftime at nil-nil. The play of the half that will not get a lot of coverage came when Mwanga raced into the box and appeared to be taken down from behind as he slammed into Saunders. No penalty was called despite outrage from both the Timbers’ players and fans.
Unfortunately, during this star-crossed Timbers season the controversy with the ref had just begun.
The second half played a lot like the first as both teams tried to manufacture chances on goal. The Galaxy was able to hold onto the ball for a healthy portion of the half and peppered the Timbers net.
The breakthrough came in the 61st minute after LA received a corner kick. David Beckham curled the ball into the box and found the head of left back Todd Dunivant who placed it past Perkins into the net.
The goal wasn’t with out dispute however as the Timbers argued that Donovan had interfered with Perkins ability to stop the cross. After the goal was scored and no whistle was blown, an irate Perkins stormed after referee Geoff Gamble. The tantrum earned the keeper a yellow card and he once again found his team trying to claw back from a deficit.
The Galaxy goal completely deflated an already stale Timbers offense and the team couldn’t find any sort of rhythm for the rest of the match. Head coach John Spencer made three changes in his lineup during the second half but none of the players brought on could make a dent in the stingy LA defense. The game ended 1-0 and left the Timbers with just 13 points out of a possible 39 on the season. After a strong first season in the MLS, the 2012 campaign has Timbers fans asking, “What is wrong with Portland?”
The answer is still up in the air but the discussion definitely needs to start with what seems to be a lack of heart. When the team is able to get a lead they seem to sink into a lull that allows other teams to push further and further up the field until they are finally able to capitalize on the lackadaisical Timbers defense.
Troy Perkins has been a huge asset in goal, stopping the Timbers’ score lines from becoming outrageous. When the team falls behind they are unable to conjure up inspiration and rather than fight they’ve tended to fold this season. The answer is far more difficult than just energy and heart but the team is in need of a drastic change if this type of play continues. With arch rival Seattle coming into Portland next week; the Timbers need a wake-up call.
A win against the Sounders could be all Portland needs to turn their season around and make a serious run at the playoffs. The rabid Timbers Army will be more than ready for their bitter enemy’s trip to the Rose City but the big question is if the club they support will be.