A moment of pure brilliance in a match that flaunted grit and controversy gave the Portland Timbers a 1-0 win over the LA Galaxy on Sunday at StubHub Center.
The Galaxy played down a man for nearly two-thirds of the match, but improved after Jelle van Damme’s ejection, and nearly snatched a late draw, only to have Jake Gleeson deny Jose Villarreal with a stunning late save.
Portland started the scoring seemingly out of nowhere in the eighth minute, as Diego Valeri found Diego Chara on a two-on-one counter. Sebastian Blanco played a terrific ball downfield to Chara off a Galaxy corner. Chara found Valeri and the Argentinian playmaker dropped to the ball back to the Colombian enforcer for an easy finish.
The goal was only the seventh for Chara in MLS, with his last coming against the Galaxy on October 18, 2015.
Controversy took over in the middle of the first half, as Jelle Van Damme saw a pair of quick yellows that led to an ejection. The first caution received by the Belgian defender was for dissent after Baldomero Toledo whistled for a foul. The second came in the 34th minute after he lunged in against David Guzman just past the center circle.
The red card had an unexpected effect on the match, as the Timbers began to struggle to find a grip on the game while the Galaxy appeared to improve despite playing with 10 men, and despite losing Gio Dos Santos to a right leg injury at halftime.
The Timbers almost locked the game up in the 72nd minute, as Fanendo Adi rumbled down the field on a breakaway. The Nigerian appeared to have an open look on goal after eluding Clement Diop and fending off Sebastian Lletget, but Rafael Garcia rushed back just in time to slide in and stop the scoring opportunity.
The victory was Portland’s second of the seasone, while the Galaxy dropped their second consecutive game at home to start the Curt Onalfo era.
Portland will look to make it three for three to start the 2017 campaign on Saturday at home against 2-0 Houston, while the Galaxy will try to rebound against Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Man of the Match
On a day when he shouldn’t have had much to do, Jake Gleeson stepped up late with a top-notch save that prevented disaster for the Timbers.
Moment of the Match
As ugly as the match was, it had a moment of brilliance in the form of the buildup to Diego Chara’s goal, which was a masterful counterattack that saw Sebastian Blanco, Diego Valeri and Chara combine for the early finish.
Match to Forget
Regardless of how you feel about the controversy, Jelle van Damme shouldn’t have made such a risky challenge right after a yellow card. It was ill-advised for the leader of a young team to go in that hard on Guzman and he paid the price.