Portland Timbers, VAR stifle Schmid, LA Galaxy
Article By Ed Pham
Photos by Diego Diaz (Prost Amerika) and Mark Hoffman (Prost Amerika)
It was a familiar face in the opposing technical box for Portland Timbers’ coach Caleb Porter. Sigi Schmid was directing his players on how to adjust in their new formation. But instead of the Cascadian rivals Seattle Sounders that Porter and the Timbers has seen him manage for, it was an unfamiliar “new” team. However, the Timbers made sure that Sigi’s first away match back with the LA Galaxy would be a rough one, as the men in green and gold came out with a 3-1 victory at Providence Park in Portland.
Flurry of Goals Early
The game got off to a quick start. Portland center-back and captain Liam Ridgewell made his return from an injury layoff in a big way, scoring the opening goal for the Timbers five minutes into the game. David Guzman’s corner kick found the captain’s run on the back post. However, the Timbers Army’s celebrations quickly were muted two minutes later, as Joao Pedro found Emmanuel Boateng with a perfect through ball. The Galaxy winger raced past the Timbers’ Roy Miller and quickly hit his shot to the far post, beating Jake Gleeson to tie up the game at 1-1.
Three minutes later, the Galaxy found themselves with a free kick after an unusual handball from Alvas Powell. Galaxy’s free kick eventually found Boateng heading it towards teammate Gyasi Zardes. Zardes manages to get it down to his feet and thumps it into the back of the net.
VAR Makes an Impact
Zardes’s goal looked to be good, but referee Drew Fischer reviewed the play. While there was some confusion and looked like it was a push from Jack MacInerney on Ridgewell, it was actually Zardes’s play that brought in the video assistant referee. Upon further review, Zardes handled the ball off Boateng’s header that allowed him to bring down the ball and get the goal. Fischer then showed the Galaxy player a yellow card for his handball.
It took roughly two minutes from the goal to the review to make the final decision, which may have seemed longer than expected. However, Fischer made the correct call with it and kept the integrity of the game intact as a result. If they can continue to make proper game-changing calls like this going, this may be a step in the right direction for the league and for the game of soccer as a whole.
Valeri’s Wonder Strike
Portland saw themselves limit the visitors to a couple of chances in the first half, while finding eight shots of their own. However, it was the chance in the 33rd minute from Diego Valeri that stunned everyone, including the commentators themselves.
Roy Miller hit a long pass towards Diego Valeri, which beat a flying Jermaine Jones. The Portland playmaker quickly brought it down, took a quick turn, then thumped a shot from thirty yards out. All Galaxy goalkeeper Brian Rowe did the best he could to try to keep it out, but he was clearly beaten by the strike. It was Valeri’s 12th goal on the season, leading all Timbers players this season.
“You are happy because you’re helping the team, it was a tight moment in the game, and it’s always nice to score a good goal,” said Valeri when asked about whether he knew how special that goal was.
A “good goal” is simply understating how amazing that goal was.
Adi’s Unselfishness and Ridgewell’s Bravery Comes at a Cost
The Timbers’ Fanendo Adi had plenty of opportunities to score a goal this game. However, instead, he found himself as the setup man for an unexpected goalscorer in the 53rd minute. Sebastian Blanco hit a through ball to Adi. But instead of looking to beat the goalkeeper, the striker saw a charging Alvas Powell come into the box. There, Adi hit a cheeky backheel pass that allowed the Portland right back to blast it far post and beat Rowe, giving the Timbers an extra cushion with a now two goal lead.
However, Adi came up limping after the play as it turned out he hurt his hamstring on the play. Eventually he waved to Caleb Porter and asked to be subbed. Ridgewell subbed out of the game after taking a Galaxy free kick to the head while being in the wall. “I don’t know on either guy. Neither one seemed too serious, but we’ll know a little more tomorrow. I think both of them were trying to be smart,” said Porter on both Adi’s and Ridgewell’s injuries.
The Implications for the Timbers and Galaxy
The Portland Timbers found themselves back above the red line in the Western Conference playoff race. After struggling to find wins in their last eight games, three points could not have come at a better time for the Cascadian team. With only ten games, Portland needs to continue this streak in order to ensure that they make playoffs. Sunday allowed the Timbers to field an almost ideal starting eleven. If they can stay healthy, they should be able to find themselves in the MLS Cup playoffs.
For the Galaxy, they are now nine points under the red line. With a new manager, they need to figure out what system will work for them under Schmid’s system and get some wins soon. With the addition of new designated player Jonathan Dos Santos to help alongside Zardes, Boateng, and Romain Alessandrini, it is possible they could make playoffs. They’ll need to find their attacking chemistry quickly. Otherwise, they’ll be watching the playoffs from home this season.
Ed Pham is a Timbers contributor on Prost Amerika and occasionally on the Radio Cascadia podcast. You can find him on Twitter at @edpham, covering the Portland Timbers, Arsenal, Olympique Lyonnais, Ligue 1, and the France National Team.