Game 21: Portland 3 Los Angeles 0By: Bob Kellett | August 4th, 2011
Bottom Line: This time the Portland Timbers started strong and finished strong. Four days after failing to hold a lead against the worst team in MLS, the Timbers put in a dominant performance against the league leaders, defeating the Los Angeles Galaxy 3-0 at JELD-WEN field. Playing in just his second league game since being acquired in a trade with Houston, defender Mike Chabala opened the scoring in the 25th minute by taking a pass from Darlington Nagbe and beating Galaxy keeper Josh Saunders with a blast from the edge of the box. Jorge Perlaza doubled the score in the 33rd minute after being set up by Diego Chara at the top of the box. Eric Brunner capped off the victory, heading a Sal Zizzo corner into the goal in the 68th minute. The victory is the Timbers’ first league win at home since May 21. It is the Galaxy’s first loss in 14 matches.
Odds and Ends
• Well that was predictable, right? After gifting points to Toronto and after a run of play that had included just one league win since May, your mental stability would have been questioned if you would have predicted that the Timbers would have so easily handed the Galaxy. Funny game, this soccer.
• Even more interesting is that the Timbers took apart LA using a 4-4-2 formation. After giving a 4-5-1 and other variations of it a go for the past three games, John Spencer went back to what worked at home earlier in the season. And it worked. Even more amazingly it worked with Perlaza and Kenny Cooper paired together up front. The strike force that had striked out looked good together. Cooper was active all night and Perlaza used his speed to have his way with Galaxy defender A.J. DeLaGarza.
• Cooper and Perlaza were effective, in part, because of the play of Sal Zizzo and Darlington Nagbe on the wings. They stretched the LA defense, helping to free up room for the forwards. While Nagbe is still a little reluctant to attack, he did a better job of keeping the ball in motion than what we have seen of Kalif Alhassan. And we all know what Zizzo does. He puts defenders on his heels. It will be interesting to see if this was just a one game aberration or whether this formation with these players will turn out to be successful.
• For all of the Galaxy’s star power they did very little on the offensive end. That was one of the quieter games Landon Donovan has played all year. Juan Pablo Angel was so ineffective that he was yanked in the first half. David Beckham was essentially limited to lobbing in crosses to empty spaces in the box. While the Timbers defenders played a largely mistake-free game, they weren’t really pressured into making mistakes because of the Galaxy’s lackluster play.
• For once there was no reason to question Spencer’s substitutions. This was the first time all season he didn’t make a move before the 80th minute. He didn’t need to.
• Take a minute to consider the plight of Mike Chabala. The dude barely played in Houston for four years. He gets shipped to Portland and is considered largely an after thought. Next thing you know he is starting and ends up scoring an excellent goal on national television against the league’s top team. What a few weeks it has been for him.
• Did anyone miss Jack Jewsbury? The Captain has been great all season but his absence wasn’t really felt at all. James Marcelin played ok (good defensively, terrible at passing) in the holding midfield role. Zizzo/Nagbe handled the corners well. There were a couple of set pieces that he might have contributed to, but otherwise it was a fine night for Jewsbury to take off. Troy Perkins was the captain, by the way.
• It was nice to see Bright Dike dressed on the bench. It was surprising that Eddie Johnson didn’t suit up. Dude scored a goal last game and his reward is a seat in the stands.
• Anyone think that Spencer was saving his players for this game? I have a suspicion that he tried to get away with starting Johnson against Toronto while saving Perlaza’s legs for this one. Perlaza’s legs were a thing of beauty.
• Josh Saunders sure looks fit now that he doesn’t eat the Bullpen’s fryolator food.
• Would love to know what Spencer told Beckham after Golden Balls flopped for a foul. Whatever it was it brought a smile to Becks’ face.
Final Thought: A one game aberration or the start of good run? That is the takeaway question from this game. As bad as the Timbers have looked at times this season they looked fantastic on Wednesday evening. The team has the ability to play up to competition, going 5-2 at home against the league’s top 7 games (on the road is another story). Has Spencer found the right combination with Perlaza/Cooper flanked by Nagbe/Zizzo? What impact will it make when Jewsbury slots back in? We’ll get some answers over the course of the next 6 games. We’ll learn more when we see how they perform on the road.