PORTLAND, Ore. – You don’t beat the LA Galaxy every day, and Portland Timbers defender Andrew Jean-Baptiste took advantage of the opportunity to celebrate his game-winning goal in style.
The young defender ripped off off his shirt and touched off an impassioned celebration in front of the Timbers Army after his stoppage-time header, a fittingly emotional end to a dramatic 2-1 over the Galaxy in a matchup of two Western Conference playoff contenders.
In what appeared to be a certain tie after first-half goals by Galaxy midfielder Marcelo Sarvas and Timbers forward Ryan Johnson, Jean-Baptiste ignited the sellout JELD-WEN Field crowd when he bulldozed his way into the box to get on the end of a Diego Valeri corner kick right before the final whistle for his first goal of the season.
The victory vaults the Timbers (8-2-9) into sole possession of second place with 33 points from 19 games, while the Galaxy (9-8-3) drop to fourth place with 30 points from 20 games. The two teams will play the third and final time in the regular season in Portland on Sept. 29.
The Galaxy broke through first, with Sarvas’ header in the 17th minute. The Brazilian midfielder was left alone in the box to receive a perfectly placed Hector Jimenez cross from the right wing.
Portland answered back 10 minutes later on a quick restart by Diego Valeri just outside the Galaxy box. He fed a charging Darlington Nagbe, who rolled a cross to Johnson for an open-net goal.
The action just increased as the game wore on.
In the 35th minute, a Juninho free kick into the box caught the Timbers defense napping, but a clean Omar Gonzalez header drew woodwork.
As the Galaxy kept pressing to close out the half, nice work from Timbers goalkeeper Donvovan Ricketts prevented two likely Galaxy goals to keep the Timbers alive heading into the second frame.
A sprawling Ricketts just nicked away a Juninho free kick blast from right outside the 18 in the 38th minute.
And then in the 42nd minute, Ricketts charged off his line to stop a clean Gyasi Zardes run with a sliding tackle.
The Galaxy had the better of the play in the first half, outshooting Portland 6-3 and holding a 53-percent possession advantage.
Galaxy ‘keeper Carlo Cudicini got into the action to start the half when a Valeri feed unlocked Nagbe for a clean run down the middle in the 61st minute. Cudicini first turned away Nagbe’s blast with a diving save, and then gathered himself enough to deflect a Johnson shot off the rebound.
LA nearly got the go-ahead goal in the 82nd minute when a deflected ball fell kindly to Zardes for a clean shot. But Ricketts was up to the task again with a diving save.
The Galaxy return home to play host to the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday, while the Timbers play at Philadelphia on the same day.