In the toughest of travel conditions, the LA Galaxy fought their way to a one-goal victory over the Portland Timbers on Wednesday night.
The LA Galaxy extended their winning streak after a gutsy road performance in Portland on Wednesday night. The midweek match, the first road game the Galaxy needed to board a plane for, saw a Galaxy side that got out to an early lead and would eventually hold on to win 3-2 over the Portland Timbers.
Guillermo Barros Schelotto made one change to the starting lineup that had beaten LAFC and the San Jose Earthquakes in successive games. He brought in Efrain Alvarez on the right-wing and moved Julian Araujo to the right-back position sending Rolf Feltscher to the bench.
On the other side of the field, Portland made changes to their starting lineup that kept Sebastian Blanco, Diego Valeri, and Jeremy Ebobisse on the bench until late in the second half.
The game started slow, with Portland holding most of the possession but, at the same time, failing to connect passes in dangerous areas.
That changed as the Galaxy began stringing more prolonged bouts of possession together, and what began as a simple pass eventually led to 16 consecutive passes with 18-year-old Efrain Alvarez finishing with a perfect 20-yard strike into the upper left corner of the goal.
The offensive move was reminiscent of the “Tiki-Taco” soccer played in 2014 under Bruce Arena and featuring Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, among others. The passing was crisp, it was anticipatory, and it succeeded in moving the Timbers around while opening up space for Alvarez.
It was Alvarez’s first MLS goal, in his first start this season, and the thoughtful strike gave the Galaxy the lead 15 minutes into the action.
The Galaxy would threaten more in the first half, but find all chances just missing on the finishing.
But after halftime, it would be Cristian Pavon — who was once again the best player for the Galaxy on the night — who would find the energy to lead the Galaxy to another goal. On a long outlet pass from defender Nick DePuy, Pavon brought the ball down and then proceeded to run around and through the Portland defense in the 50th-minute.
Pavon’s path took him up the left side of the field where he dodged a tackle from defender Pablo Bonilla — who could have brought Pavon down with the contact — and then cut inside on Julio Cascante, before firing a shot behind goalkeeper Jeff Attinella in the 50th minute.
It was Pavon’s fifth goal of the season and his 8th overall in a Galaxy uniform. And in his 19 games played in a Galaxy uniform, he has a combined 19 goals and assists — averaging a goal or an assist every game he’s played.
He gave the Timbers fits all night as he pressed the pace and the creativity.
Portland would answer back 17 minutes later as substitutes, and a desperation to get back in the game, led to more Timbers’ chances. Portland would finish a scrambling, broken play that saw Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham fumble a fingertip cross into the center of the box. That’s where Felipe Mora picked up the ball at around the penalty spot and fired into the net to bring the Timbers to within one.
But on a night that saw the Galaxy dominate for large stretches of the match, all it took was another deep run into the attacking side of the field for Joe Corona to come up with the game-winner. Pavon’s penetration into the box stopped short before lobbing a ball to the back post for substitute Jonathan dos Santos. Dos Santos tracked the ball down near the end line and passed back to Alvarez, who had the ball stripped from his foot but saw it bounce out to Corona. Corona took one step toward it and, using the outside of his right foot, ripped the ball into the net’s top corner.
The timbers would score again in stoppage time and even had multiple goals called offside, but would eventually fall short to the exhausted road side.
For the Galaxy, they’ve won three games in a row for the first time since September of 2019 when they beat Sporting KC (7-2), Montreal Impact (2-1), and Real Salt Lake (1-2) between September 15 and September 25. It also completes a turnaround that saw the Galaxy go winless through their first five games, and winless in the three games of the MLS is Back tournament.
The feat, complicated by the new travel rules instituted during a global pandemic, meant the Galaxy arrived in Portland at around 1 PM the day of the game. From there, they went to a hotel and then to the stadium for the 7:30 kickoff.
The long travel day and the increased number of games means the Galaxy won’t have time to recover. They’ll play LAFC at Dignity Health Sports Park on Sunday, September 6, at 7:30 PM (UniMas, Univision Deportes, SpectrumSN).
But for now, the Galaxy will travel back to LA with three more points in their pockets and in a four-way tie for fourth place in the Western Conference standings. A far cry from the 12th place they were stuck in just ten days ago.
Game Note: Tonight marked Dan Steres’ 100th start as a member of the LA Galaxy.