CARSON, Calif. – The last time that the LA Galaxy traveled to JELD-WEN Field, LA defeated the Portland Timbers 5-3 in a wild and dramatic highlight-reel game. When they make their trip to the Rose City on Saturday, they don’t expect anything as dramatic, but they do anticipate a high octane match.
When the two teams met last month, the match was anything but high-octane as both teams were compact in a scoreless draw that saw very few chances for either side.
Currently tied with the Galaxy for third in the Western Conference, the Timbers have been at their best this season when they’ve executed new head coach Caleb Porter’s high pressure and offensive-minded style. Christened by the media as “Porterball,” the Timbers fast-paced game will be aided by the slick turf field at JELD-WEN Field and presents a significant challenge for LA.
“We know in their building that they like to high press. There’s a lot of energy with the crowd, it’s a smaller field, it’s on turf, so things happen really quickly there,” said defender Todd Dunivant. “There are a lot of factors that we have to be ready for. Last year, we handled it very well and got a good win, but the year before, it was the complete opposite. We have to be ready, no doubt about it.”
The Timbers team that LA will face will be profoundly different than the one that took on the Galaxy a few weeks prior. Gone are three of Portland’s major offensive contributors in captain Will Johnson, winger Rodney Wallace, and Frédéric Piquionne, all on international duty participating in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. But that won’t be the only absence as they’ll also be sans defender Pa Modou Kah—who was Portland’s best performer against LA in June—after he picked up a red card just 11 minutes into their defeat against the Columbus Crew last weekend, which snapped the Timbers’ 15-game unbeaten run.
Despite their personnel losses, the Timbers still boast Argentine Diego Valeri, talented goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts and defensive midfielder Ben Zemanski, who performed well after filling in for Johnson last week.
“They’re a good team. That was one of the best games that we played this season in terms of the way that they play,” said Keane. “They like to get the ball down and pass; it was certainly a tough game here, so it’ll be extra tough playing away from home especially playing on a turf field. It’ll be a difficult game, but it is a good test for us.”
As for the Galaxy’s strategy to take on the high pressure Timbers?
Midfielder Robbie Rogers believes that the Galaxy must come out and pressure them from the outset. This style suits Rogers—and fellow winger Hector Jimenez—particularly well as it will allow LA’s flank players to venture higher up the field in an attempt to expose their outside backs.
“You have to match the same amount of energy because they’re going to pressure us like crazy, so you have to do the same back to them,” said Rogers. “That’s my opinion, so we’ll see what the coaches decide, but I think you need to match that energy.”
If the Galaxy win, they’ll continue their rise up the Western Conference standings, possibly moving within a point of first place. But with the league still in midseason, Rogers among others, is not focused on the table, simply the next game on the schedule.
“I don’t look at the standings until the coaches bring them into the locker room to show us,” said Rogers. “I just think game by game. This is a game that really excites me because their fans are crazy in a good way. I just look at each game.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com