LA @ Portland: The Story - Part One

The Portland Timbers were reeling. If you were to look only at the 2011 Timbers' spring and fall results, you would think the expansion team made the playoffs with ease. But that first MLS summer was brutal in Portland, and smack in the middle of it, the LA Galaxy came to town riding a massive 14-game unbeaten streak.

LA would go on to win their first MLS Cup in the Beckham Era that November. But on August 3, that star-studded squad at the center of the MLS world swaggered into outpost Portland, thinking they would easily dispatch a reeling and deflated Timbers side.

Portland's July had not gone well. Back-to-back home defeats for the first time in Jeld-Wen Field history washed much of the Timbers' home's mystique away. In fact, Portland hadn't won at home since May, and had maddeningly tossed away leads in three of their previous four ties at Jeld-Wen.

Most enraging of all was a two-goal second-half lead that was blown against ever-lowly Toronto FC just four days prior. Plus, as a team that had lost four of their last five road games, the Timbers were in terrible shape.

Under John Spencer, when things were going well, they went very well. When things were going poorly, Spencer had no answers besides constantly changing lineups and piling pressure on his beleaguered team, which, of course, was no help when trying to defend a late lead.

But every once in a while, Spencer's boys would ram their heads through a seemingly shut door for their boss, and when that happened, it was a beautiful sight to behold.

Portland were without all-star skipper Jack Jewsbury, who was ruled out in the morning with an injury. Eddie Johnson, a little-used striker was set to start. The inclusion of Johnson against Toronto was just Spencer throwing an egg at the wall and hoping it didn't break.

All was going well for Johnson, who scored against Toronto, but he sustained a concussion that would eventually end his career in the pre-game warmup.

That meant that Kenny Cooper, who Spencer was on the outs with since the penalty debacle against DC United earlier that year, was forced into the battered team. ESPN were in Portland, and so was MLS' flagship team, but it promised to be an entirely forgettable day for the Timbers.

Not so fast. From the opening whistle, Portland took it to the visitors. The Timbers played like a team fed up with the doubts and the questions, fed up with people saying they couldn't compete with the mighty Galaxy. The crowd were behind their team too, surging for every 50-50 ball, leaping for every header.

It was a gargantuan effort. LA wasn't ready for it.

Portland took the lead in the 26th minute through a well-worked goal for Mike Chabala, making his home debut, and the home team never looked back.

Jorge Perlaza took an entry pass at the top of the box, and showing command and strength that he never had before or since, spun his defender and swung Portland 2-0 before halftime.

A towering header from Eric Brunner in the second half made the final score 3-0. Portland didn't just beat LA. They blew them out.

After the game, Mike Chabala, reveling in a sensational home environment, karate chopped his log in half in front of the Timbers Army. From that point on, the Timbers righted their ship and had a strong finish to the season.

Still, the Galaxy game was by far the team's best effort in 2011. It was one of the biggest upsets of the season, and there was no doubt about who the winner was going to be in a matter of minutes. It showed just how powerful Jeld-Wen could be. The place regained its mojo. It hasn't gone, and isn't going anywhere.

August 3, 2011. Portland 3, LA 0. The Timbers were giant killers.

Alright guys, I don't believe I have to say this but, just in case, please do not submit anything racist, homophobic, sexist or otherwise not appropriate for even the younger Timbers fans.

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