|Cristhian Paredes is doing some very limber things here. Pivoting for the win.|
Galaxy Coach Sigi Schmid has faced the Timbers several times over the seasons, and can usually craft a reasonable plan of attack for his charges. After their dreadful 2017 season, Schmid was tasked with sharpening an offense that lacked true scoring punch while keeping some of the defensive toughness that had been already in place. They struggled early to find an identity, but their complexion changed greatly with the early season acquisition of Zlatan Ibrahimovic to pair with striker Ola Kamara to give the offense balance. Zlatan has been everything advertised, but Schmid didn't have Kamara or both dos Santos brothers available as all 3 players were with their international teams for World Cup 2018. This forced Schmid to play slightly more conservatively with his lineup, putting lightning fast Emmanuel Boateng up top as a lone striker with 3 attacking mids: MLS veteran Chris Pontius, finally healthy Sebastian Lleget, and Romain Alessandrini. Former San Jose backstop David Bingham has taken over in goal for the Galaxy behind a rotating group of defenders, but Ashley Cole has provided some veteran experience while former MLS SuperDraft pick Perry Kitchen has returned to the league from overseas to give the Galaxy midfield some bite.
|Diego Chara was all over the pitch all day.|
Under a very warm sun with Center Official Alan Kelly in charge, the Timbers got the first chance of the match just 4 minutes in when Valeri threaded a pass to Flores in between 3 Galaxy players, and it was Flores who got their first in space. Bingham came up big to stop the threat, but it was a huge early chance to take the lead. Boateng and Pontius would combine in the 11th minute as Emmanuel drove down the right side and put a cross in the middle to Pontius, who deflected the shot off the right post and out for a goal kick. The same two individuals would meet up again in the 20th minute off another pass to Pontius in space, but in this case, Mabiala and Tuiloma were slow to react and Pontius was able to spin a shot just inside the right post past Attinella for an early 1 to 0 lead. Portland has 2 awesome chances to level right afterwards - Blanco and Chara in the 22nd minute with Sebastian feeding Diego for the shot that Bingham parried away, and Tuiloma, Chara and Valeri in the 28th minute when Bill sent Chara forward with a lovely through ball. Chara dropped the ball back via a cross and Valeri put a great header on target, but Bingham was there for the save. Both sides traded back and forth chances with several blocked shots and near misses, but a battle royal was brewing between Kitchen and Chara in the midfield as both "destroyers" were creating mayhem throughout the pitch with hard fouls and well timed tackles.
|Bill Tuiloma showed his leaping prowess making the start at right back.|
The Timbers appeared very determined when the second half began with Paredes, Cascante and Tuiloma all missing key shots in the first 5 minutes - Tuiloma's header off a Valeri free kick had some pace to it but it was right at Bingham for the easy catch. The tempo was picking up as the Galaxy started to push their pace, but in the 54th minute, Flores pulled off a nifty box to box run off a deft pass from Blanco that put Flores just inside the Galaxy box to the left. Galaxy defender Jergen Skjelvik came in to defend with fellow back Dave Romney in the area to try and stop Flores, but Skjelvik got his elbow up in trying to stop Flores with a shoulder to shoulder tackle, and Andres took a hard tumble in the box. Kelly wasted no time in pointing to the spot based upon the contact, and while the Galaxy put up some slight argument, they didn't protest much as Valeri stepped up to take the penalty. With a hearty smash into the left corner of goal past Bingham, the score was now level at 1, The Galaxy turned up the intensity for the next few minutes to see if they could regain the lead, but of the shots attempted, Kitchen's miss in the 71st and another Pontius close call in the 73rd caused some nervous moments for the Timbers defense.
|The Portland offense created chances but the team wasn't always in sync|
For the Timbers, there were some individual highlights as Valeri, Blanco, Paredes and Mabiala continue their streaks in appearing in every 2018 Timbers MLS match, with Diego, Sebastian and Larrys starting every match (and Mabiala playing every league minute so far). Chara also became the all time franchise leader in games played for all Timbers eras with 215 appearances, but he will not get a chance to extend that streak in MLS play. Chara was whistled for 6 fouls by Kelly, and in the 62nd minute, Chara tackled Kitchen with enough force that Kelly gave the diminutive destroyer a caution for the foul. Unfortunately, this would be Chara's fifth caution of 2018, thus triggering the automatic one game suspension in league play - so Chara will not be available for this weekend's battle with Sporting Kansas City on June 9 at Providence Park. However, Chara could add to his total in the midweek U.S. Open Cup match when the Timbers host San Jose on June 6 at 7:30 PM, also at Providence Park, when MLS teams join the tournament in Round 4 in a single elimination tournament to crown the best U.S. based soccer team in professional and high amateur soccer. The winner of the June 6 match will play the winner of the other USOC match in this quadrant - the Seattle Sounders FC hosting the Sacramento Republic. The draw for hosting duties for Round 5 takes place on June 7 with those matches slated for June 19 or 20, which is mere days ahead of the Timbers resuming MLS league play with a 2 game road trip to Atlanta United FC (June 24) and Seattle (June 30).