If LA and Portland were searching for some separation in the Western Conference standings – where they’re dead even – they’ll have to wait another week. On Friday the Fourth the two struggling sides left everything on the field and came away with nothing more than a 2–2 draw.
They had too much time with the ball. Everybody had too much time with the ball. We were out of position, late in place. So for moments you see the Galaxy that everyone expects: tight, pressing, biting. Then most of the time we were just jogging around, and we paid for that.
I’m not sure whether it was the fireworks or World Cup fever, but StubHub Center was packed. The chants were loud, the atmosphere electric, and even the grassy hill under the scoreboard was coated by both blankets and couples.
Spurred on by the environment, both teams poured themselves into the game — but while the energy was ratcheted up, the level of play was dead even. These are two well-matched sides, and despite thoroughly probing each other’s defenses, the entirety of the first half went by without anyone breaking through.
But, to the thrill of the crowd, the second half held fireworks.
After 65 minutes of stalemate the game suddenly burst open. In just five minutes – less than the time it takes to find a bathroom at StubHub (as my companion can attest) – the two teams combined for three frantic goals. First was LA, scoring off a wonderstrike from midfielder Marcelo Sarvas. Sarvas saw an opening – a brief one, an unlikely one – and he went for it, much as the team should’ve been going for it all night.
The risk paid off. But before LA fans were done celebrating, Portland replied. When the Galaxy failed to fully clear the ball from their box it fell to Diego Valeri, who capitalized on the moment of disorganization to bring one back for the Timbers.
Only three minutes later LA was in for one serious whopper of déjà vu. Same problem – not quite clearing the ball out of a dangerous situation – same result. This time it was Jorge Villafaña who made LA pay, putting the home side behind 1–2.
The second half we started off better and got the goal, which we probably deserved. Ten – fifteen minutes there was a lack of concentration, that’s the reason really why we ended up getting the draw.
It wasn’t even that long, Robbie — it was five minutes. In five minutes LA pulled ahead, Portland caught up, and then the Timbers took the lead. The Galaxy desperately needed to generate more chances. To his credit, Bruce Arena made a change that, for me, was an encouraging sign of life from LA’s coaching staff. He pulled out A.J. DeLaGarza and subbed in Rob Friend — taking out a defender and replacing him with our tallest target forward.
The final twenty minutes saw the Galaxy pushing hard for an equalizer. They finally found it in the 86th minute: a smart combination of team play came to a point when Donovan lofted the ball to Baggio Husidic, just left of goal. Husidic smacked it across the mouth of the goal and toward Robbie Keane at far post — but before Keane could get a foot anywhere near the ball, Portland’s own Rauwshan McKenzie accidentally knocked it in. With four minutes to spare, the game was tied up.
What followed was a chaotic flurry of attacks from the home team. Robbie Rogers, in particular, sprang to life. He’s finally found his place on this Galaxy squad — and it’s left back, of all positions. Rogers made repeated runs down the sideline, where he always found space to either cross or cut in. If these crosses were just a bit more effective, LA could’ve found their winner.
The past two games we’ve done a good job at getting forward and adding to the attack, but I think we need to get a little better at it, and make better runs in the box. But defensively we’ve both been all right and I think the team feels pretty confident with us out there.
A draw is probably the result both sides deserved, and if anyone was disappointed, the fireworks afterward made up for it. The Galaxy’s next showing promises to be a serious challenge, as they face red-hot Real Salt Lake at home on Saturday.
I still don’t think we’ve been far enough. Is that a work in progress? I’m not sure that’s a great word for it, but we’re not doing as good as we would certainly like to.