Portland Timbers make all of the right moves in key win over LA Galaxy

Portland Timbers (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Portland Timbers (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

Portland Timbers finish strong against a struggling Galaxy squad

Three points, that is what Portland Timbers were dialed in on at home in their victory over the LA Galaxy on Wednesday night. This one looked a little lopsided from the get as the Timbers were set to break a two-game draw streak. While the Galaxy headed on the road with the hopes of finding a winning playing style in Providence Park.

Well, one of these things happened in Portland’s 5-2 romp of the Galaxy, which helped kickstart their high scoring ways again while securing a playoff spot in the process. For Los Angeles, it was more of the last straw on a season that has been anything but respectable for the five-time champions.

More Niezgoda, please

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When you start Jaroslaw Niezgoda, he scores, it is that simple for the Polish striker who has been a key member of the Timbers rotation this season. But often trading places with other players in the starting eleven as a part of a deep and diverse Timbers attack since joining the club back in January.

Niezgoda’s two early headers in Wednesday night’s match, he is now at seven on the season with his last four goals coming in his last two starts and six coming in four of his starts.

Granted his playing time was hindered by a more eased in recovery process from a surgery undergone back in January to correct a heart defect. The global pandemic may have benefitted him, by giving him further time to recover, with the opportunity to show his skillset in now late October.

For a club that can struggle to get goals on the scoreboard, that rarely happens when Niezgoda gets significant playing time. Take the Timber’s previous three matches which resulted in a 1-2 defeat at RSL and two 1-1 draws against the Sounders and LAFC alike. Niezgoda only made two appearances in that time span, for a combined total of nine minutes. If he can get things started early for Timbers, I say use him.

But Portland’s and Cristian Pavon‘s performances aside, the real story may surround a struggling Galaxy squad that looks polar opposites to Zlatan led squads of the past couple of years.

LA Galaxy showed no fight, aside from Pavon

The Galaxy came into the match on a bit of a downward spiral, losing eight of their last nine matches, more question marks than answers, and a designated player signing that took the offseason by storm but has yet to yield any positive result.

It was very obvious early on that the Galaxy were outmatched after two very quick goals from Niezgoda put the Timbers up 2-0 early after terrible backline coverage had Los Angeles fighting from behind the rest of the way. Next came a handball in the 29′ by Nick DePuy on a slide-out of bounds attempted to block a Yimmi Chara kick led to a penalty kick for the Timbers. Diego Valeri netted the goal no problem, but to go down 0-3 in just the 30′ should have been a wake-up call for Los Angeles.

Leadman Guillermo Barros Schelotto took notice and subbed in veteran midfielders Sasha Kljestan and Sebastian Lletget in hopes of a change in play from his squad. It was an immediate fix, as the Galaxy never looked more dangerous than right out the gate in the second half. Here we saw Cristian Pavon clean up a sloppy pass from Timbers goalie Steve Clark and convert for Los Angeles’ first goal of the night.

The following 44 minutes weren’t conducive to that short block of time, as Portland went on the attack and saw goals come from Eryk Williamson (60′) and a banger from Andy Pollo (70′). Pavon was able to net another goal in stoppage time, but at this point, the match was a little out of reach.

Simply put, the Galaxy are in bad shape and find themselves in last place in the Western Conference with 18 points total and a PPG metric of 0.95. And as Thursday afternoon, it appears the Galaxy front office have seen all they need to see. The club has decided to relieve Schelotto of his duties as head coach and appoint Dominic Kinnear as interim head coach for the remainder of the season.

The playoff picture

This was a much-needed win for Portland, who was riding a two-match draw streak that left them stagnant in the Western Conference standings.

Unfortunately for the Timbers, they found themselves in a two-way tie for second place with the Sounders at 35 points a piece, just behind a red-hot Sporting KC squad who also registered a win Wednesday night at 36 points and in first place. What makes the situation a little harder to swallow, is it was announced on Thursday that the league has officially decided to go to a points-per-game metric in order to set the conference standings and determine playoff contention.

This transition didn’t mean much to the Timbers in terms of qualifying for the playoffs for the fourth year in a row, which they did. But had more of an effect on their place in the conference standings and in turn their shot at hosting playoff matches at home. With a points-per-game metric in place, Portland fell to third place behind Seattle in first and SKC in second.

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Next up for the Timbers is another home match against stadium mates, Vancouver. The last time these two teams met back in September, it was a home match for the Caps, but a 1-0 win for the Timbers. Vancouver is coming off of that 0-2 loss to the Sounders, but have shown significant fight this past month as they fight for a playoff spot. The Galaxy head back home, for a two-game stretch at home, starting with Real Salt Lake on Sunday, this time without Schelotto on the sidelines.