By MARK EDWARD HORNISH
CARSON, Calif. — The L.A. Galaxy continued their strong run of form Saturday, dominating the Portland Timbers, 3-1, in a rare morning match, before 20,089 at the Stub Hub Center.
Robbie Keane led the Galaxy scoring with a brace, one on a superb diving header, the other on a penalty kick late in the game to seal the Galaxy victory.
Keane’s first goal came in the 73rd minute as the result of lovely combination play from the Galaxy, as seven white shirts touched the ball before Landon Donovan’s left footed cross connected with the Irish international, giving the Galaxy the lead for good.
Keane’s second goal came after Galaxy midfielder Juninho was hacked down from behind in the Portland penalty area in the 83rd minute. It was the second hard foul the Brazilian absorbed in the space of a few minutes, and he would not return to the match. Keane, who had missed his last three penalty attempts in all competitions, lifted his arms in celebration after converting his first spot kick in months.
“We came in at halftime, and we knew that if we continued to play the same way, we were going to get our opportunities,” Keane said after the match. “The way we’re passing, the way we’re moving, we’re very clinical in front of goal. Everything is starting to click certainly.”
The Galaxy held possession for 65% of the match, and found continuous joy with their wide play. Fullbacks Robbie Rogers and Dan Gargan spent as much time joining the Galaxy attack as they did tracking back to defend.
“They have a lot of good attacking players, but their attacking players don’t defend,” Donovan said after the match. “We knew that if we got the ball wide, their wide guys weren’t going to track back much, and we were going to get a lot of space. We got a lot of room wide, got a lot of chances, and scored a couple great goals.”
The match was not always in the Galaxy’s hands. Though being thoroughly outplayed in the first half, the Timbers managed to steal a goal against the run of play in the 14th minute. Gaston Fernandez drew a foul just outside the penalty area in the 14th minute, and gave red hot set piece specialist Diego Valeri a tasty look at the Galaxy goal.
It would be Portland’s only attempt on target in the entire match, and Valeri made it count. His high hard shot deflected off the wall and past a diving Jaime Penedo into the upper corner of the Galaxy net, and the Timbers, despite enjoying only 36% possession in the half, found themselves defending a lead.
“Give Diego credit, he scored a great goal. But other than that, I thought we were excellent, fully deserving of the win,” Donovan said. “It’s too bad we didn’t get a shutout today. I thought we deserved it in the way we played, and it’s a little frustrating to give up that goal, but all in all, a very good performance. We can be very proud of it.”
The Timbers spent the remainder of the half bunkered in in front of their own goal. They surrendered 13 shots on goal in the half, and looked to escape to the locker room with the lead, but the final Galaxy shot of the half found pay dirt, when Gyasi Zardes headed home a Robbie Rogers cross just before the halftime whistle to even accounts heading into the break.
“Obviously the goal at the end of the first half was big,” said Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena after the match. “First half, we could have been a little bit cleaner, technically, in and around the penalty area, that might have created another goal or two, but overall it was a good performance. We’re on a good run, and hopefully, we’ll keep getting better.”
The Galaxy now climb into second place in the Western Conference, pending the result of Real Salt Lake’s Rocky Mountain Cup clash against the Colorado Rapids later tonight.
All-Star selections Omar Gonzalez and Robbie Keane have bowed out of Wednesday night’s MLS All-Star game against Bayern Munich. Only Landon Donovan will attend, and while he is in the Best XI, it is unlikely he will play significant minutes, since the Galaxy host Western Conference cellar dwellers the San Jose Earthquakes two days later, on Friday night, August 8th.
The loss ends the Timbers two game win streak. They remain outside the playoff picture as they head home to host the All-Star game, and then welcome Chivas USA on Saturday August 9th.