Timbers Take Two Game Winning Streak to LA

The Portland Timbers fly South to face Robbie Keane and the LA Galaxy this Saturday morning at 11:30 AM PT. Both teams come into this match fresh off three goal wins: LA’s 3-0 win over the league leading Seattle Sounders and Portland’s 3-2 besting of the MLS worst Montreal Impact. While their opponents weren’t of the same caliber, both earned vital points in a tight Western Conference playoff race. Portland sits just three points below their Californian opponents and has a chance to move into a four-way tie for third place. Saturday’s NBC showdown is a huge match for all parties involved.

Defense is going to be the name of the game at the StubHub Center. The Timbers’ defense (Danny O’Rourke) gave up two goals to the lowly Montreal Impact last week. On the flip side, the Galaxy held Seattle scoreless in the fishing village. Another stat that sticks out is the 35 goals that Portland has allowed compared to just 16 for Los Angeles. If Liam Ridgewell’s partner, likely O’Rourke, can hang on for 90 minutes the Timbers have a shot. Otherwise, I’m worried that things will boil down to a Argentine goal to find a late draw.

Good news for Portland’s backline is the return of Jorge Villafana. The speedy left back is key when Porter starts Fanendo Adi up top, or La Gata in the midfield. Regardless of his form, Michael Harrington isn’t known for his crosses. Villafana on the other hand looks right at home sending dangerous balls into the box off an overlapping run. If Rodney Wallace doesn’t make the XI, Jorge needs to start.

On the attacking side of things I’m expecting the same lineup as last week. Fanendo Adi might be the DP, but the three Argentine attack has real bite right now. La Gata’s positioning and footwork, Valeri’s passing and late-game prowess, and Maxi Urruti’s clinical finishing were all on display in Montreal. I fully expect them to be again in LA. Also, Fanendo Adi and Rodney Wallace need to come on earlier than the 72nd and 79th minutes respectively. Adi can change a game, but he needs some time to come up to game speed, especially as he hasn’t played most teams yet. Wallace too can change things with his pace, but I want more than eleven minutes out of him.

One thing to note about the LA Galaxy is that they’re at full strength. The club has one loss in the last two months and won four of their last six matches. Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan, and Gyasi Zardes are scary, any of them can score or assist the other. And the return of Omar Gonzalez doesn’t hurt much either. The Galaxy are the Galaxy and they only get stronger as the season progresses, not much more needs to be said on the subject.

Key Matchup: Diego Valeri versus Robbie Rogers. Rogers looked great at left back against Seattle, but I’d be more worried about stopping Valeri than Lamar Neagle or DeAndre Yedlin. If the Argentine can beat the American, Portland has a real shot at three points.

Runner-up is another wing vs outside defender in Nagbe against Dan Gargan. Nagbe has his match of the year last week and I’m really hoping to see some magic in the city of angels.

Superstition of the Week: Winning streaks aren’t something that the Timbers excel at. Unbeaten streaks are one thing, but Portland has never won more than two matches in a row in MLS play, something that they’ll be looking to change this week. Detractors and cynical fans might bet on a national broadcast draw.

Projected Lineups: 

Portland Timbers: Donovan Ricketts; Jorge Villafana, Liam Ridgewell, Danny O’Rourke, Michael Harrington; Diego Chara, Will Johnson; Darlington Nagbe, Gaston Fernandez, Diego Valeri; Maxi Urruti

LA Galaxy: Jaime Penedo; Robbie Rogers, A.J. DeLaGarza, Omar Gonzalez, Dan Gargan; Juninho; Stefan Ishizaki, Marcelo Sarvas; Landon Donovan; Gyasi Zardes, Robbie Keane

(image courtesy of Jamie Francis/The Oregonian)