In an absolute demolition coming off of six days’ rest, the Portland Timbers defeated the LA Galaxy 5-1 to clinch a spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs. Jaroslaw Niezgoda was the leading scorer with a brace in the first half.
The Timbers didn’t do too much rotation for this match. Most notably, Jeremy Ebobisse once again did not suit up for Portland after suffering an injury in the match against LAFC. Andres Flores started in Ebobisse’s stead, while Jaroslaw Niezgoda stepped in at the striker spot for Felipe Mora.
Portland has done an excellent job being the first to strike all season, and Wednesday night was no different. In the sixth minute of the match, Jorge Villafana sent a cross to the middle of the box toward Niezgoda. The Polish striker headed the ball at the perfect angle, sending it right past Jonathan Klinsmann and into far-right corner of the goal. Niezgoda’s sixth goal of the season put the Timbers up 1-0 early.
LA Galaxy was trying to bunker back early and make it difficult for Portland to get easy goals, but ESPN’s Taylor Twellman put it best when he noted that parking the bus doesn’t make your defense invincible. The Timbers proved that time and time again as they continued to pressure the Galaxy in the final third.
It fell apart again for LA in the 19th minute. Diego Valeri sent a corner into the box that cleared out. Villafana got the rebound and launched a hard shot that was deflected to Yimmi Chara. The winger got it to Pablo Bonilla at the top of the box, and Niezgoda slipped behind the Galaxy back line. Bonilla got it up to Niezgoda, who headed it into the same exact spot as last time. Niezgoda had an early brace, and Portland had a 2-0 lead.
Things were looking spectacular for Portland and increasingly bleak for LA, and it was trend that would only continue. In the 29th minute, Yimmi Chara tried to save a ball about to go past the end line and kicked it right into the hand of Nicholas DePuy. A handball was called and, because it was in the box, a penalty shot followed. El Maestro got himself situated in the box for the penalty kick and, as he has done so often, put the ball into the bottom-left corner for his eighth goal this season. It was second-quickest Portland had reached 3-0 in club history.
It was 3-0 for Portland, and the Galaxy looked despondent. Their offense wasn’t generating any real opportunities, and the defense ... Well, you saw what the first half scoreline was. Portland was in complete control and stayed up three goals going into halftime.
Things were all bliss for Portland in the first half. It did not start that way in the second half. Just 17 seconds into the half, the LA Galaxy scored a goal to cut Portland’s lead to two. The Galaxy worked the ball into the box after the bad giveaway from Steve Clark. Sebastian Lletget did a back heel to a cutting Christian Pavon, who put it right past an out-of-position Clark. It was quickly just 3-1 Portland now.
The Galaxy in general played with a renewed sense of purpose early in the second. They caught the Timbers flat-footed and started attacking the goal with urgency. Meanwhile, although they were working it into the goal in the final third, Portland looked just a step slow. It surely left fans uneasy to see LA score that quickly.
But Portland didn’t let that totally deter them. Eryk Williamson made sure of that in the 60th minute. Williamson took the pass from Niezgoda and put on a fantastic technical display. He dribbled all around Daniel Steres and then sent a fine shot right under Klinsmann’s legs for the goal. Portland had regained their cushion with a 4-1 lead.
The Williamson goal was the one that took the life out of the Galaxy — but it wouldn’t be the one that sealed the game. That honor belongs to Andy Polo, who returned to the club after being away on international leave for most of this month. Yimmi Chara sent a cross from the left side of the box to the right. Polo had a beautiful golazo, launching it into the opposite side of the net. It gave Portland a 5-1 lead and sealed the game for them.
Cristian Pavon scored a goal in extra time to make it 5-2, but it was hardly any consolation. All it changed was the scoreline. The Timbers held on to win 5-2.
Portland will play the Vancouver Whitecaps in their next match on Nov. 1. Kickoff is at 7:00 p.m. Pacific.