Written by Alex Baker
CARSON, California – It took an own goal from Portland Timbers defender, Nat Borchers to save the Los Angeles Galaxy from falling to its first home defeat of the season Sunday night.
Portland – the reigning MLS champions – gained the lead early in the second half after Fanendo Adi ran on to a through ball from Diego Valeri and curled a shot around substitute, Rafael Garcia to beat keeper Brian Rowe at the far post.
It was the Galaxy’s second game in a row without striker, Robbie Keane and it was also the second consecutive match in which the Galaxy were unable to find the back of the net.
“Obviously, it wasn’t good enough, our attacking performance,” said Galaxy head coach, Bruce Arena. “We controlled the play for long periods of time but still didn’t produce enough quality opportunities.”
In the absence of Keane, Gyasi Zardes started up top, paired with Giovani Dos Santos, who made his first appearance since being injured on opening day.
“[Dos Santos] played okay, you know he hasn’t played since the first game,” said Arena. “He’s only played 45 minutes this year coming into this game and to get 65 minutes out of him was good but you could see he needs a little bit more time.”
Zardes for his part had about as good a game as a striker can have without finding the back of the net. The USMNT forward made repeated forays into the Portland penalty area, maintaining possession and bringing his teammates into play with intelligent passing and positive movement.
However, like the rest of the Galaxy, Zardes struggled to find a good final ball.
With Dos Santos still finding his way back to match fitness and the Galaxy’s other two designated players – Keane and Steven Gerrard – both absent, the Galaxy’s second tier players have had the chance to step up over the last two games.
One who did against Portland, was Sebastian Lletget, who made an impact playing out wide, serving crosses, creating opportunities and ultimately, putting in the ball that led to the Borchers’ headed own goal.
“I tried to create as many chances as possible,” said Lletget. “I mean I thought I created a couple, we just couldn’t put it away.”
“Obviously, missing Keano is a big one, but I think Gyasi can do that job but it just hasn’t fallen we did create some chances it’s just literally we didn’t put it away.”
Nigel de Jong wore the captain’s armband for the second game in a row. However, the Dutchman’s otherwise solid performance was overshadowed by a crunching challenge on Darlington Nagbe that saw the Portland playmaker stretchered off the pitch.
De Jong was shown a yellow card for the incident, but was arguably lucky not to have seen red.
“It was a ball that came my way, it was a 50-50,” said de Jong. “Normally I always get those balls, but I went over the ball and catch the ball a little bit and catch most of his ankle, and it was a pity it was never my intention to hurt him. He’s a good kid as well.”
It was another controversial moment for de Jong, a player who’s put in career-ending tackles on at least two players previously. It was also another talking point in an MLS season that’s already raised questions for both the number of red cards being handed out, and the high level of dangerous incidents on the pitch that have led to those cards.
The tie leaves the Galaxy sitting fourth in the Western Conference heading into next week’s game away to the Houston Dynamo.
(Photos by ISI and Michael Janosz)