The LA Galaxy take a business trip to Portland and return home with another win to extend their streak to three in a row.
The LA Galaxy came into Wednesday night’s match against the Portland Timbers riding high after defeating both of their California rivals in consecutive weeks.
Many were asking if the Galaxy could continue to play with the same level of intensity that led them to victory without two designated players in the starting lineup. The answer was not only yes, but the team somehow managed to look even better in some moments on only four days rest.
Guillermo Barros Schelotto made two changes to the lineup that previously secured six points for the Galaxy. Moving Julian Araujo to right back in favor of Rolf Feltscher and starting Efrain Alvarez in the midfield.
Schelotto’s trust in the youth movement was successful as Alvarez scored his first MLS goal just 15 minutes into the match as the Galaxy looked the better of the two sides in the first half.
It should be noted that Portland Head Coach, Giovanni Savarese, opted to start a completely new starting lineup with no holdovers from their last match-up. Perhaps this is why the Galaxy looked to be in the driver’s seat until Portland found their rhythm and subbed on some of their more notable players.
The second half saw the Galaxy struggle a bit after a brilliant Cristian Pavon run and goal.
Portland clawed back a goal in the 67th minute, but Joe Corona’s blistering strike proved to be the winner just four minutes later.
An injury time goal from Diego Valeri made for some scary moments to close out the game, but all in all the Galaxy did enough to walk away victorious.
Three wins in their last three games leave the Galaxy as one of the hottest teams in the league. The team’s confidence will be sky high when LAFC travels to Dignity Health Sports Park for the third edition El Trafico this Sunday.
Let’s take a look at who baited Merritt Paulson into making comments that put him at risk of being fined :
TOP OF THE CLASS
For every game that Cristian Pavon turns in a five star performance, you have to imagine that the Galaxy General Manager, Dennis te Kloese, has to be racking his brain to find a way to justify keeping Pavon on this team beyond the term of his loan from Boca Juniors.
The Argentine maestro was at it again scoring his fifth goal of the season in incredible fashion. His touch, pace, and killer instinct after receiving a long ball from Nick Depuy showed all of the elements that you want to see from a marquee designated player.
During the preseason and prior to the pandemic shut down, Pavon looked poised to make a run at being named MLS Most Valuable Player and it is clear to see that his quality is a notch above everyone else when he steps onto the field.
If he continues to dominate MLS competition as he has in these past three matches, MVP will soon stand for Most Valuable Pavon.
Efrain Alvarez made the most of his minutes as a substitute in the previous match against San Jose with his involvement in the attack and did enough to earn his first start of the 2020 season.
Alvarez continued to impress in Portland, curling home a beautiful left footed shot for his first ever MLS goal. The goal has been a long time coming for the East Los Angeles native who signed a contract as a homegrown player in 2018 at just 15 years old.
In addition to getting on the score sheet, Alvarez was able to build chemistry in the midfield by using his vision to connect with his teammates in dangerous positions.
Everything may be falling into place at the right time for Alvarez to begin delivering on his potential.
Sebastian Lletget was once again a boss in the midfield for the LA Galaxy as he continued to build on his form in post-bubble MLS play. Lletget notched an assist on the evening and nearly made it three games in a row with a goal, if not for a spectacular save from Portland’s Jeff Attinella.
Consistency is key and Lletget has been the heart of this Galaxy team in these past three matches. With Pavon wreaking havok on the wings, Lletget has found freedom in the center of the midfield to create and connect all of the pieces across the offense.
The renewed focus of the Galaxy appears to be on the here and now, but if Lletget maintains this form, he will put himself in the conversation to be a continued staple of Gregg Berhalter’s US National team picture.
While many of the Galaxy’s top performers during their current win streak have given you exactly what you want to see, Joe Corona’s performances were a little more up and down.
Corona showed in the Portland match what he can offer the team when he is on the upswing. His established rapport with Perry Kitchen and Sebastian Lletget was apparent in this match as he was in sync for almost the entire match with his fellow central midfielders.
The highlight of the match came in the 71st minute when Corona sent an absolute rocket of a shot into the top corner of the net after heavy pressure on the Portland defense. In a match that saw a perfectly placed shot from Alvarez and an impeccable run and goal from Pavon, Corona’s shot from distance was still impressive enough to be the goal of the night.
The expectation from Corona is not to end up on the scoresheet every night, but if he can step up in the right moments like he did in Portland, he will be invaluable as a role player.
Nick Depuy put in another excellent shift at center back in addition to earning an assist on the night thanks to the magisterial run of Cristian Pavon.
Depuy’s pairing with Dan Steres has been impressive in this recent run as the team defense is putting themselves in positions to limit the shots on goal from their opponents.
While the Timbers outshot the Galaxy 17 to 15, Depuy and the defense ensured that only three of those shots were on target. Unfortunately, David Bingham only made one save out of those three.
It appears that Depuy is no longer fighting for a starting spot, he has seized his opportunity and the spot is now his.
Ethan Zubak had his moment to shine when he headed home his first MLS goal against LAFC. As time progresses, it appears that the moment may be one to remember because Zubak’s involvement in the offense doesn’t seem to be building since that goal.
Zubak only registered one shot during the match and as the team’s lone striker, you would expect for more opportunities to be there. He also looked out of place as he was unable to fit in with the quick one touch passes that the midfielders were providing throughout the game.
It also could be a cause for concern that Cristian Pavon felt the need to take the ball himself when scoring his goal as opposed to trying to find a potential pass to his forward. It may just be Pavon’s nose for goal, but I am not seeing Zubak developing a connection or building trust with the team’s most talented player.
As mentioned in the previous rating of Nick Depuy, the LA Galaxy defense is doing everything they can to limit the amount of shots on target that David Bingham needs to face.
Unfortunately for the Galaxy, Bingham is not coming up big when he is being called upon to do so. When breaking down both of Portland’s goals, fingers can be pointed at Bingham for errors on both plays.
For the first goal, Bingham pushes a deflected ball directly into the penalty spot, making it way too easy for Portland’s Felipe Mora to slot home.
On the second goal, Diego Valeri was left alone to hit a one timed shot and put it on Bingham’s near post. Positioning wise, that is the one place goalkeepers should not be getting beat.
One save in a game also isn’t good enough. Factor in that at this stage of his career, Bingham is still susceptible to making errors on goal kicks and you can see why perhaps the Galaxy saw a need to secure a number two goalkeeper in Jonathan Klinsmann.
Cameron Dunbar did not receive a player rating as he was subbed on in the 87th minute and was not on the field long enough to be given a proper evaluation.
HOWEVER, it does need to be stated that Dunbar showed more in his three minutes plus injury time than some players did in the full 90 minutes and that should be recognized.
Dunbar’s pace and instincts put pressure on the Portland defense and he nearly scored his first MLS goal with a wonderful shot on a pass from Pavon which eneded up striking the post.
The young player from Carson looked to be viable option on the wing or forward if Schelotto wants to experiment in anticipation of the return of Javier Hernandez.
Guillermo Barros Schelotto has forced many to reconsider what happened at the start of the season and leading into the MLS is Back tournament.
One consideration is that the team was simply not mentally prepared for competition in the midst of a global pandemic. Factor in Schelotto’s demeanor on the sideline and it becomes plausible that the LA Galaxy were not right in Orlando.
Another consideration is that the performance in Orlando was so poor, that it served as a wake up call to Schelotto and the players that changes needed to be made both tactically and with on the field work rate.
I think that both of these things can be true that the tournament was not seen as a priority and that changes were needed for the Galaxy to be successful moving forward.
Since the restart, Schelotto has shown to have made all of the right decisions from his roster selection, tactics, and squad roatation.
If Schelotto was on the hot seat for his performance earlier in the season, he needs to be applauded for motivating his players and getting them playing in a system that has them right back in contention for a playoff spot.
Schelotto has shown the ability to adapt and will need to continue to do so with the return of players from injury in addtion to incoming transfers.
Below you can find all player grades plus their per game average rating.