It was a rollercoaster of emotions throughout the entirety of last night’s match. Of course, it ended the way most of us Portland Timbers fans would like with a 6-3 victory over the LA Galaxy, but there were certainly moments that caused some to worry: The Julian Araujo goal in the 34th minute, Ethan Zubak’s 54th minute header, and even Christian Pavon’s laser in the 72nd minute had me personally worried that a Real Salt Lake situation was potentially brewing.
But every time it seemed like the Timbers faltered a little defensively, they came back twice as strong on the other side of the pitch. Portland scored six goals for the second time this season after never reaching such a scoreline before 2020. There were even a couple Goal of the Week worthy shots on the night. Every time the Timbers gave something up, they bounced back.
Even after six goals, though, head coach Giovanni Savarese thinks there’s room for improvement.
“I think we still could be a little bit better offensively,” Savarese said. “Could have found more space, even though we scored a lot of goals.”
That’s something you probably have the luxury of saying when you have attacking depth like the Timbers. You’d be hard-pressed to find a night where that depth was better put on display. Jeremy Ebobisse and Felipe Mora both had braces, Diego Valeri had a chip shot that was pure class, and Yimmi Chara continued to hurt teams with his speed and registered two assists for the night.
Portland has been a pretty solid offensive team all season. They have the third-most goals this year at 33, trailing only the Seattle Sounders and LAFC. Since the restart, however, that offense has started to click on different level. After taking the time to analyze past matches and learn about each other, Ebobisse says they’re figuring out how best to use that attack.
“We’re still looking for that balance, but ultimately we have a team of 10 to 15 attackers — whoever is on the field, whoever is on the bench — that know where they’re supposed to be and are capable to make plays,” Ebobisse said. “Tonight we made six, and hopefully we can keep scoring like that because if we do, we’re going to win a lot of games.”
Developing that chemistry has been hugely important. It’s especially helped players like Mora — who has six goals in 11 matches with the club. Mora has seen how that training has paid off, helping everyone get a feel for how one another plays.
“I think the training has helped a lot,” Mora said. “The head coach [Savarese] has helped also with the language and everything. The players ... we get to know each other by our movement, and I thank God because everything has played out very, very well.”
While most of the takeaways are positive from this match, it wasn’t perfect. As I said earlier, there was a lingering feeling for a bit that this could’ve ended up like the Real Salt Lake match earlier in the restart that went from a 4-2 win to a 4-4 draw. The Galaxy found much success creating danger in the final third, taking advantage of the backline losing their men more than once.
“Defensively, we have to be a little bit tighter, and I felt we allowed them to find those goals a little bit too easy,” Savarese said. “The first one is a one situation that you have to give to [Julian] Araujo: He strikes the ball very well, but we need to be a little bit tighter and not allow that second and third goal to come in.”
Even though the streak of clean sheets ended, the winning streak did not. That’s four wins in a row now for Portland. They’re unbeaten in their last five. Tightening up the defense is, of course, important, but the ultimate goal is to earn three points however you can.
Heading into Carson, California, the Timbers had an unusual 10-day break from match play. Before the match, Savarese and others talked about the ages-old debate of Rest vs. Rust — whether it was bad to have too much time off when your team is on a roll. Savarese said he didn’t believe there’s such a thing as too much rest before, and if anything this victory shows that the club is in the right headspace to keep the momentum rolling no matter what.
“The guys continue to prove that the mentality is there, that it is strong, that even though sometimes you have a week to train — which is a very good thing because you’re able to rest — sometimes you can relax a bit,” Savarese said. “But the guys from the beginning brought the right intensity to the match. That shows good mentality. That shows the guys are in the right place.”