If Portland's unbeaten streak was going to end it was more than likely going to end against the two time defending MLS Cup Champions. The Portland Timbers' players did not get that memo. They stood toe to toe with the LA Galaxy and remained standing to earn a hard fought draw away from home. The draw extends Portland franchise best unbeaten streak to 14 and are still the only MLS team with out a road loss.
As soon as the referee blew the whistle for the first half kick off LA came out flying as they looked to repeat their previous season's results by scoring early. Portland's shape tightened and shrank as they absorbed LA's pressure but in doing so they ceded possession to LA for the first 10 minutes of the game. Portland's first passing sequence which lasted longer than 3 or 4 passes occurred in the 13th minute.
Once Portland did break LA's initial pressure with a little bit of possession they started to pass themselves back into the game. Finally back into the game Portland looked more comfortable on the ball and started utilizing their play makers, specifically Darlington Nagbe, to attack a weaker than normal LA Galaxy defense. The best chance of the first half came in the 31st minute on a long range shot that forced Carlo Cudicini into a diving save to parry the shot wide of the goal.
LA did not threaten until the final 5 minutes of the half as they twice played Landon Donovan behind Portland's defense. On each occasion Pa Modou Kah timed his tackle perfectly and ended any chance scoring LA had.
The second half started in almost the opposite way the first half did. Instead of LA pressuring and looking for the early goal they sat back and allowed Portland to possess the ball as much as they wanted in their half and the middle third of the field. As soon as Portland entered the final third they closed down passing lanes and force Portland into a less than ideal pass.
When LA did win the ball back they immediately looked to counter by playing through Landon Donovan or Robbie Keane. On a few occasions they played the ball over the top but each time Andrew Jean-Baptiste used his size and speed well to win the ball back and snuff of the chance.
Both teams had very few chances in the second half but LA had the best chance. In the 55th minute LA earned a corner and the ball into the box pin balled around until it fell at the feet of Todd Dunivant. His shot hit the inside of the post and bounced back towards the penalty spot. Donovan Ricketts, performing a pirouette as he watched the ball sail by him to hit the post, put out his hand to punch the rebound away from danger.
Once again LA threatened with a long ball but this time Robbie Keane was able to get on the end of it but was not able to hit the shot past Ricketts. The save pushed the ball out to touch for a corner kick and once again Ricketts was called upon to dispel the danger. Ricketts came off his line to catch a ball before it got to two wide open LA players standing near the far post.
Over the final 10 minutes of the game Ricketts was called upon twice to gather a loose ball in the box. Portland, on the other hand, was not able to generate any sustained attack and were just looking to see the game out and earn their one point. Which they were able to do with timely possession over the final 5 minutes of the game.
Portland played the final two minutes of the game with 10 men. When Landon Donovan made an overlapping run in the late stages of the game Will Johnson tried to follow Donovan's run. However, as he tracked Donovan's run Michael Harrington stepped up to close down the pass and both Will and Harrington collided. Thankfully it did not cost Portland the match and they were able to earn the point.
- LA had 10 days rest before this game, Portland had 4. Earning a point with tired legs against a good team that is well rested is a great result.
- I love PTFC's game day operations, especially after attending a game in another stadium (Check out the match thread for what LA did)
- Portland's defense had their hands full but as a unit they were able to shut down LA's attacking stars.
Home Depot CenterStubHub Center is away from just about everything to do with LA and there are no signs whatsoever on the freeways indicating where it is.
- 14 games overall and 10 games on the road without a loss. Crazy to say that after such a terrible year last year.