The Portland Timbers will have to wait another week for their first win of the season after losing 2-1 to the LA Galaxy this Sunday night. Despite scoring a stunning team goal, the Timbers could not overcome giving up a pair of penalties on the road and remain on just one point in league play.
The Timbers started the match in an atypical formation, playing five men across the back line in anticipation of the return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic to the Galaxy lineup. That change in set-up seemed to pay dividends in the early going as the Timbers looked structured in defense and repeatedly found the open space left by the Galaxy when they looked to break forward.
Ibahimovic was still nearly able to open the scoring in the 14th minute when a ball played in from the flank seemed to curl away from him, only for the big Swede to lean into his defender with his back toward goal, reach back with a leg, and flick the ball over his shoulder for a looping shot that clanged off Jeff Attinella’s post before being cleared away for a corner kick.
Before the first half was out, Ibrahimovic would get on the board. In the 32nd minute an entry ball into the Timbers box looked destined for the chest of the big man, only for Zlatan to go eagerly to ground after being barged into from behind by Claude Dielna, prompting referee Ted Unkle to point to the spot and award the Galaxy a penalty. Fittingly, it was Ibrahimovic who would step up to the spot, striking a low, powerful ball into the back of the net while sending Attinella sprawling the wrong direction.
In the 44th minute the Timbers would pull one back thanks to some quick one and two touch passes through the Galaxy defense and into the box. After Diego Chara picked up the ball in the center of the pitch, the Timbers’ midfielder played a quick ball forward to David Guzman, who turned toward goal, found Diego Valeri with a pass, broke forward and received a return ball from the Maestro, then played a square ball across the face of goal for a simple tap-in from Jeremy Ebobisse to draw the sides even at 1-1 going into the half.
Twenty minutes into the second half, Ibrahimovic was back at the penalty spot. With a slick move, the Galaxy forward broke into the Timbers box, saw the oncoming slide from Attinella, then touched the ball away just before the Timbers keeper arrived and made contact, drawing the whistle yet again. For the second Galaxy penalty it was again Ibrahimovic stepping up, but this time he went straight down the middle with a Panenka-style penalty that Attinella could only wave at after committing to his dive.
Despite some late action around the Galaxy box, the Timbers struggled to break through their now packed-in hosts. It looked like Lucas Melano might have made something happen in second half stoppage time after the substitute forced a mistake on the Galaxy back line, but after collecting the ball Melano could not control it and had it promptly taken off his boot.
The Timbers will be back in California next Saturday, April 6th, when they will take on the pointless San Jose Earthquakes.