BY MIKE DONOVAN
PORTLAND, Ore.- One team came into Sunday’s match on a franchise-long unbeaten streak, while the other came in reeling. And after 90 minutes of play, it was easy to see which team was ascending and which finds itself in the conference basement.
The Portland Timbers dominated Chivas USA on their way to a 3-0 victory, in front of a sellout Mother’s Day crowd at Jeld-Wen Field. Rodney Wallace, Diego Valeri and Will Johnson scored the goals, while Donovan Ricketts earned his fourth-straight home shutout for Portland.
Chivas USA (3-5-2, 11 points) continued to showcase their 3-4-3 formation, but it was no match for Portland’s style of high pressure and crisp passing. Caleb Porter’s side has now gone nine straight matches without a defeat.
“It’s another positive step in the right direction. We continue to be on a very good path toward our ultimate goal,” Porter said. “The reason we’ve been on a nine-game run without losing is because we’ve stayed humble & hungry. We don’t get complacent or overconfident.”
After controlling play in the first half, the Timbers (4-1-6, 18 points) breakthrough came when Wallace put the team ahead 34 minutes in. The play started when Ricketts threw a 30-yard outlet pass to Valeri and ended when Wallace chipped Chivas goalkeeper Patrick McLain.
McLain, who was making his first MLS start with Dan Kennedy suspended for the match, had four saves but could do little against the three Portland goals.
Wallace also had a part in the second goal, when his nifty pass combined with a failed offside trap, left Diego Valeri one-on-one with McLain. The Argentine DP left no doubt and knotted his fourth goal of the season. In his last four matches, Wallace has two goals and two assists.
“Rodney Wallace is having a breakout year. I’m not sure why he hasn’t had a breakout year up to this point,” Porter said. “I think clearly he’s one of the better wingers in the league, and he’s really flourishing.”
The Costa Rican International is playing his best soccer since coming into the MLS in 2009 as a first-round pick of DC United. His three goals this season already tie his career-high, which he set in the rookie season. Despite his recent success, Wallace deflected credit to his team.
“We have good chemistry, we’re on form right now. The thing about this group is we like winning and it shows on the field,” Wallace said. “We are well connected. Every guy out there is giving their all.”
While Wallace had a part in the first two goals, it was Will Johnson who completed the win with a stoppage-time goal that saw his curling shot go around a diving McLain. The goal was a cap to the impressive effort put forward by Johnson and his partner in the central midfield, Diego Chara. While Chara failed to get on the scoresheet, his play on both ends of the field was a important part to his club’s victory.
The Timbers controlled the possession throughout the match, completing 443 passes to Chivas USA’s 305. Porter, however, cared little about his team’s possession advantage.
“I couldn’t care less how much possession we have. I want to go to goal and get goals,” Porter said. “We’re not just going to be a possession team to a fault. We’re not going to die of beauty. We’re going to win games, that’s it.”
After a good start to the season, Chivas USA now finds itself at the bottom of the Western Conference standings and has lost the last two matches by a combined score of 7-0. And the Goats will be shorthanded heading into their next match due to Mario de Luna collecting a yellow card late in the match.
While the Mexican defender will be suspended due to yellow card accumulation, he might be hearing from the MLS offices as he made contact with a ball boy while trying to get a quick restart on a throw-in. While de Luna did not seem to apologize to the boy, Chivas USA head coach Jose Luis Sanchez Sola did approach him to make sure he was all right.
The shutout continued an impressive run of play for Ricketts and the Timbers defense. But unlike previous matches, Ricketts was not forced to bail out his backline at any time during the match and made three saves, all-of-which were right at the Jamaican International.
“I like nights like this when I do nothing and still get the clean sheet,” Ricketts said.
The Timbers might be in the midst of a franchise-record run, but Porter isn’t completely satisfied yet.
“We’re not where we want to be yet, which is what makes it scary. We can be even better,” Porter said.
Next up for last-place Chivas USA is a road match with Real Salt Lake on Sunday. Portland now embarks on a three-game road trip that begins Saturday against Cascadian rival Vancouver Whitecaps.