The worrying trend of blowout losses on the road for Portland Timbers disappointingly continued on Friday night, as the Timbers suffered their latest road defeat by a margin of 4-1 at the hands of the LA Galaxy. The Timbers briefly had life via an equalizing goal from Jeremy Ebobisse — but tallies from Rayan Raveloson and Victor Vazquez in the first half, and Sasha Kljestian and Samuel Grandsir in the second half, would prove to be overwhelming deficit for the Timbers as their 2021 road woes continued.
The match got off to a hot start, as Portland had the first chance of the game. Jeremy Ebobisse, a last-minute starter in place of the originally listed Felipe Mora, was sprung in behind in the second minute. He never got the ball under control, and his half-hearted effort was palmed away by Jonathan Bond. Still, it was an encouraging sign for a Timbers team that was desperately in need of some good fortune on the road.
It would be reflective of the first fifteen minutes of play as well. Portland carried the game and controlled the play, frequently putting the Galaxy on the back foot with quick interchanges and movement in transition. It nearly payed off in the eleventh minute, as Marvin Loria worked the ball into a good spot in the corner of the box and cut the ball back to an onrushing George Fochive. Fochive could not keep his first time attempt down, and it sailed over the bar.
Portland looked the likelier of the two sides to open the scoring; however, it would be the hosts who would strike first — and in a fairly spectacular fashion. After finding some footing as the first half wore on, LA won a corner in the 17th minute. The initial cross was headed up in the air, and Galaxy midfielder Rayan Raveloson rose and connected on a pretty overhead bicycle kick. The ball sailed past Steve Clark and nestled at the far post, and it was 1-0 in favor of LA.
RAYAN RAVELOSON ARE YOU SERIOUS pic.twitter.com/66Hy6sF4gR— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 31, 2021
Not happy with trailing after putting in all of that good early work, Portland would have a nearly immediate answer. Not even two minutes after conceding, the Timbers would break down the field via quick interplay. Yimmi Chara broke past the backline, and then cut the ball back for Ebobisse in the box. He would do well to cut past his defender, keep his composure, and then calmly finish past Bond. Barely after we registered Portland going down, they would equalize the match at one-all.
Portland seemed to find new life when they leveled the game, but it wouldn’t last long. In the 34th minute, Julian Araujo found the ball on the right wing and worked his way past Bill Tuiloma. He chipped in a cross that would find Victor Vazquez in an acre of space: When you’re that open and have no pressure on you, you don’t miss. His header would make it 2-1 LA.
Portland weathered the storm for the rest of the first half as the Galaxy upped the pressure. The hosts nearly found another goal right before halftime as Kevin Cabral headed a cross past Steve Clark, but the flag went up for offside.
As the halftime whistle sounded, the Timbers were spared. It would only be momentarily, however.
The second half started with the Timbers pushing for their second goal, putting their emphasis on their attack. But it would be their continued deficiencies on defense that would doom them.
The death spiral started in the 52nd minute. Throughout the second half, LA would continually find dangerous attacking positions and scoring chances in the box with minimal resistance from the Timbers defense. One of those chances would come good via Cabral, as Sasha Kljestian found him in space at the far post. Cabral’s initial shot was blocked, and Steve Clark came out to try to collect the ball. The Timbers netminder missed the ball that completely clattered into Cabral, and the referee pointed to the spot. LA had the chance to make it three via a penalty kick.
Kljestian stepped up and made no mistake, slotting right down the middle after making Clark dive the wrong way. The Galaxy were up 3-1 in the 53rd minute, and the game was trending badly for the Timbers.
Unfortunately, that goal wouldn’t be the bottom. Just three minutes after extending their lead, the Galaxy piled on the misery. Araujo again was the facilitator for the Galaxy, as he once again drove at the Timbers defense. Josecarlos Van Rankin came out and put in a sliding challenge, which Araujo easily glided past. With Van Rankin still on the ground, Araujo whipped in a cross, which found a streaking in Samuel Grandsir completely and inexplicably unmarked at the far post, who headed with authority past Steve Clark to make it 4-1.
Julian Araujo is a PROBLEM.— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 31, 2021
He sets up Samuel Grandsir for his first MLS goal! pic.twitter.com/EVb2zGkc7v
At that point, the game was essentially lost for Portland. A quadruple sub from Giovanni Savarese that brought on attackers Felipe Mora and Sebastian Blanco would be an attempt to try to shake things up and give Portland a chance to get something out of the night. By then, however, the Galaxy were happy to drop their line deep and force the Timbers in crosses that were easily dealt with. Portland never really challenged the Galaxy’s goal for the rest of the game, and the match would finish 4-1.
The game represented the latest in a series of dispiriting losses on the road for the Timbers, which included similar capitulations against FC Dallas and Austin FC. Thankfully, Portland has their next three games at home in the friendly confines of Providence Park. If the Timbers want to stay in the thick of the tight playoff race in the Western Conference, they will have to make the most of those games, starting on Wednesday night against the San Jose Earthquakes.
When it comes to the road form, the Timbers will have to try to improve on their performances soon, as they have yet to find a semblance of consistent success away from Portland. If Portland is to be a playoff team this season, they will have to find that — and soon.