The LA Galaxy traveled to Portland light on starters and found themselves light on points after a 4-0 win from the Timbers on Wednesday night in the fifth round of the US Open Cup.
The loss ends the Galaxy’s 2019 Open Cup run, but it also enables them to forgo having to split lineups for the remainder of the season. But no trophy in the Open Cup now means that the Galaxy haven’t won any hardware since the 2014 MLS Cup.
The Galaxy started just one regular in Dan Steres but had several players who regularly sub into the match or make appearances for the club. But Zlatan Ibrahimovic didn’t travel, along with many of the starters as Galaxy head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto had to focus on the club’s return to MLS action on Saturday night at FC Cincinnati.
The Galaxy started well, with Emmanuel Boateng finding plenty of space behind the Timbers’ backline. Diedie Traore also found some running room on the left side and together, Boateng and Traore caused some real issues for the Timbers’ defense.
Efrain Alvarez, who was celebrating his 17th birthday on the night, got a ball from Boateng at the top of the box. His good look at a left-footed shot was easily saved, but it showed the Galaxy were capable of creating chances in just the third minute of the match.
Boateng would get the best look of the first half for the Galax– one where he got a clean look for more than a split second while inside the box — but Portland’s Steve Clark easily saved his right-footed shot.
And that’s when the flood gates would open.
A set-piece for the Timbers would get their first of the night as a deflected header from Brian Fernández would carrom off of the Galaxy’s Perry Kitchen and into his own net in the 28th-minute.
Portland would score again in the 34th-minute, as Fernádez would get the goal this time after Jeremy Ebobisse chipped Galaxy goalkeeper Matt Lampson and defender Dave Romney tripped over his own feet trying to clear the ball off the line.
Sebastián Blanco would then launch a long-range shot in the 37th-minute that would find the back of the net.
The Timbers would get an 82nd-minute insurance goal from Jorge Moreira that would deflect off Romney and past Lampson, but the game was already over.
Even multiple chances for Ethan Zubak late in the game and a searching ball from Alvarez that would clank off the upright in the 85th-minute couldn’t erase the zero on the night.
If you were looking for bright spots, there weren’t any. Even from the youngsters, the Galaxy were hoping to show some growth in a more significant game setting.
Alvarez, sporting the Galaxy’s most lethal left foot, botched numerous crosses, corner kicks, and set pieces. His usual measured strikes of the ball were overpowered, poorly positioned, and completely lacking in danger.
The defensive pairing of Romney and Steres was stretched early and often, and the early exit from Diedie Traore either points to his inclusion in the game on Saturday or an injury that will leave the Galaxy more shorthanded headed into the game in Cincinnati.
And for all the shouts for Juninho to get more minutes in the center of the midfield, he was routinely run off the ball, pressured into mistakes, and forced into poor positions.
But the bottom line continued to be a team that was lacking a legitimate attacking option and a club that couldn’t string more than for or five passes together without losing the ball. And because of the lack of offensive fire power, the counter attacks were mostly toothless outside the first 20 mintues of the match.
Schelotto was likely hoping to learn something about the Galaxy from tonight’s game. He already has shown some growth and understanding in not starting a first-team — a mistake that cost him two losses in May when playing at Columbus and then home to NYC.
But it’s also likely the only thing Schelotto will take from the loss, is that the Galaxy are still lacking in depth.
And as the Galaxy continue in this condensed MLS schedule, that does very little to account for four international starters that are missing from the club during a busy international tournament, they’ll need to lean on this “depth” even more.