“This will definitely unlock us a bit more, and it’s a type of result that really catapults a team in a season. It’s a season-changing result.”
That’s Caleb Porter, head coach of the Portland Timbers, after their game against DC last weekend. It was Portland’s first win of a struggling season. They’re riding high; they’ve finally found that rarest of strengths: momentum. There’s something to being an underdog that can enervate a team – like being down one at halftime – it sharpens claws and bares teeth. When the LA Galaxy travel to Rose City this weekend, they need to know what they’re up against — a team with newfound resolve.
So how are the Galaxy feeling?
“Last week wasn’t what we have been doing in the past few games, and it might have been one of our worst performances.”
—A.J. DeLaGarza, defender, LA Galaxy
Coming out of practice Thursday, the general mood is unphased. Like they’ve made peace with what went wrong against the Rapids, and they’re moving on. “It’s always hard to evaluate a game in Colorado,” says Bruce Arena, head coach and general manager. “The altitude is a factor. You play at sixty-one, sixty-two hundred feet, it’s a factor.”
Whatever the reason, the Rapids made LA look bad. Our own Sean Steffen penned a great heat-map-by-heat-map breakdown of just how bad. Is elevation to blame? Maybe. Teams have certainly struggled in Colorado in the past. Is it the lineup? There’s a good argument for that, too.
“You’ve got to learn from it. We looked at the defensive side, the offensive side, and what we can do better in both aspects.”
But those hoping to see drastic lineup changes are likely to be disappointed. It’s worth keeping in mind that the Galaxy did produce some good chances against the Rapids, especially in the opening minutes. And one bad game shouldn’t be the death knell for a formation — especially one that’s looked so productive previously.
“[Portland is] like every team in the league in the early going — they’re a good team, I think they’ll show that in time. As will we.”
With Todd Dunivant, James Riley, and now Omar Gonzalez all out on injury, LA’s defensive depth is truly whittled to the bone. Likely centerbacks Kofi Opare and Leonardo will have their hands full against Portland’s Gastón Fernández.
Fernández joined the Timbers this year and he’s been quick about making his mark — he leads the team in scoring with four tallies, including an absurdly fast goal just 34 seconds into the game against DC.
He’s not alone: Darlington Nagbe and Diego Valeri are also hitting their stride. To stymie Portland, LA will need to both tighten up their back line and get the better of the battle in midfield.
And it wouldn’t hurt to finish a few more chances on goal, either.