Operation Come-From-Behind was no longer in effect today as the Portland Timbers grabbed an early lead against the LA Galaxy only to have the perennial contenders fight back for a 3-1 with a dominant performance.
Against the run of play, the Timbers managed to open the scoring in the 14' after Gaston Fernandez was taken down from behind just outside the LA box. After a sustained period of possession for the Galaxy, the Timbers broke down the pitch and Diego Valeri found Fernandez breaking toward the goal. With defenders converging on him, Fernandez went down as Juninho ran up his back, drawing the foul.
The ensuing free kick was in prime shooting position and, with a four man wall in front of him, Valeri stepped up to take the opportunity. Valeri blasted a hard shot around the wall at the near post, clipping the ball off the head of the jumping Gyasi Zardes. The deflection gave the shot just the swerve that it needed, taking the ball around Galaxy keeper Jaime Penedo and directly into the corner of the net to put the Timbers up 1-0,
their first ever lead over the Galaxy in LA.
The goal did not deter the Galaxy, however, who jumped right back to their domination of the game when the whistle was blown to restart play. Taking the play to the Timbers, the Galaxy gave the Portland attack no space in which to operate, winning the ball or winning a chunk of a player each time the Timbers touched the ball. The high intensity treatment proved too much for Gaston Fernandez who, after several collisions, had to come out in the 25' giving Kalif Alhassan his longest appearance since the May win over Chivas USA.
With the delays for the goal, injury, and substitution, the Galaxy found themselves with four minutes of stoppage time to continue pouring on the pressure. Finally, in the 3' of first half stoppage time the Galaxy managed to break through. Pushing the ball through the center of the pitch, Landon Donovan drew the Timbers defense onto him before slotting a ball down the left flank for the overlapping run of Robbie Rogers.
With space in which to operate Rogers sent in an inch perfect cross, finding Zardez alone in the center of the box. With nobody on him, Zardes rose to meet the ball and got just enough on it to head past Donovan Ricketts, evening up the score at 1-1.
The second half saw a revitalized Timbers team come into the match and play like a team that deserves to be there, not one getting run off the pitch. After being out shot 13-1 in the first half, the Timbers began to push forward and create some chances on goal being lead forward by Valeri.
In the 66' the Timbers looked like the might break through as a quick counter attack gave the Timbers an even numbers attack on the LA goal. With the ball at his feet in the middle of the pitch, Valeri slipped a ball through the LA defense and into the heart of the box for the onrushing Alhassan. Getting around Rogers, Alhssan looked like he would be in on goal, only to take a tumble after having his heels clipped in the box as Rogers struggled to keep up. Referee Kevin Stott, however, swallowed his whistle and waved play on as the Galaxy cleared the ball away.
With the Timbers' best chance gone wanting, the Galaxy again turned up the pressure, driving down the Timbers' right flank again and again. Finally, in the 73', their continued pressure on Jack Jewsbury payed off. Landon Donovan, running onto a quick through ball, created space with a quick juke and a run to the end line before clipping a cross through the Timbers' box toward the back post.
With no defender able to get a head to the ball, Robbie Keane was in his element, lurking just off the shoulder of Will Johnson. Drifting away from his marker, Keane was able to dive between Johnson and the goal, getting a head on the ball and putting it away for his eleventh goal of the season.
The Timbers' torment was not over, however, as the Galaxy continued stifling their offense and pushing forward with attacks of their own. As the Timbers tried to absorb LA's pressure and break out of the box the Galaxy continued tightening their grip on the game, pumping ball after ball into the box off crosses and corners.
Finally, in the 85', the Galaxy got their final breakthrough of the game. After a headed-out corner made its way to Juninho at the top of the Timbers' box, the Galaxy midfielder took a touch and broke forward. Diego Chara, who was a step slow on the day, put out a foot to make the chance saving tackle on the edge of the box, only to get nothing by Juninho's ankle, sending him tumbling and prompting Stott to blow his whistle after a moment's hesitation.
Stepping up to the spot was Keane, who had missed both of the penalties he had taken this year. This time, however, Keane stared down Ricketts, freezing him in place, and calmly side-footed the ball into the corner of the net, giving the Galaxy a two goal lead that they would not relinquish.