It’s a rare night when the Los Angeles Galaxy are the ones seeing stars.
Not only is the club one of the few in Major League Soccer with national and international superstars, but it came to face the Portland Timbers at Jeld-Wen Field leading the MLS with 45 points and undefeated since May 1.
Where Landon Donovan
the American sports hero might earn adulation elsewhere, Donovan the Galaxy striker was a villain only topped by David Beckham
, the former midfielder for Manchester United and England’s national team. The formidable duo is among the most dangerous in MLS, with Donovan second in the league with 11 goals and Beckham also second with eight assists on the year.
But the Timbers’ defense kept Beckham in check and stunted Donovan, holding him without a shot attempt in Portland’s 3-0 victory.
“We were dominated. We were beat,” said Galaxy coach Bruce Arena. “I don’t think there’s any sophisticated analysis.”
It was a stunning turnaround—at least for one night—for a forlorn Timbers team that has blown the lead late in several matches.
Portland’s success can be credited to more aggressive play, strong ball possession and defense that never let the Galaxy stars break free.
And it always helps when the shots are beating the keeper. Newly acquired defender Mike Chabala
struck in the 26th minute off a pass from Darlington Nagbe
. Chabala shot from the left side and sailed the ball past Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders, a former keeper for the Timbers in their pre-MLS days.
Portland piled on in the 33rd minute with an impressive combination of passing and speed. Kenny Cooper
took a throw in and fed it to Diego Chara
, who quickly dished it to striker Jorge Perlaza
across the top of the penalty box. Perlaza at first looked well marked by by defender A.J. DeLaGarza—but then outdashed the Galaxy defender and nailed a sliding, hooking shot for the Timbers’ second goal.
That gave the Timbers a 2-0 lead at halftime. But the cushion was little consolation to a team that has often collapses late in a game and allowed two goals in the final 20 minutes against Toronto on Saturday.
“In the back of your mind you're thinking, 'Oh no. Here we go again. Can we keep it?’” said Timbers goalkeeper Troy Perkins
The Timbers ended any chance of a Galaxy comeback with a screaming header by defender Eric Brunner
off a cross from midfielder Sal Zizzo in the 68th minute to send the score to 3-0.
The Galaxy tried to make adjustments. After making no shots in the first half, the Galaxy moved Beckham farther back in the formation to improve ball possession and mount better attacks on offense. Beckham, famous for his curving, searching crosses, delivered several dangerous balls toward the Timbers’ goal in the second half, but no one from the Galaxy could turn them into scores.
In the end, L.A. was out-shot by Portland, 15-8.
“After the way things had been going, we showed a massive amount of character," said Timbers coach John Spencer. "It feels fantastic because I have stood up here the last few weeks giving you guys explanations and answers to questions, sometimes very difficult questions.”
The only downside to Wednesday night’s win was the yellow card charged to Chara, his eighth this season. That warrants an automatic one-game suspension for Chara in Saturday’s away match against the San Jose Earthquake, which Portland just leapfrogged in the Western Conference standings.
Portland will be very thin at midfield if Jack Jewsbury is not able to play against the Earthquakes. Jewsbury wasn’t cleared for the Galaxy game due to a strained hamstring.
The Timbers managed to rest several usual starters against the Galaxy, a league power. It could be a valuable morale boost heading into three straight road games in hot climates.