Cristhian Paredes scored an impressive brace. Diego Valeri had a goal and an assist in his 200th appearance with the Portland Timbers. Things got nice and fiery at the end as a total of three players were sent off in the final few minutes. Despite all that, Saturday night’s 4-0 victory over the L.A. Galaxy belonged to goalkeeper Steve Clark.
Clark made six saves against the Galaxy, and none were bigger than his diving denial of Uriel Antuna in the 74th minute. The Timbers led 2-0 at the time and L.A. were buzzing and primed to get on the scoreboard. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who Clark stopped three times on the night, got free on the through ball before playing a perfect cross for Antuna, who would have scored if not for a fantastic reaction from the Timbers keeper.
Seven minutes later, Cristhian Paredes buried his second goal of the night, locking down another three points for the home side.
“There was a quite good ball played in behind and I just stood him up and made him beat me and he ended up hitting it into me,” Clark said about that save. “That was a big moment, I was having a blast.”
Clark also made a fantastic save against Ibrahimovic in a one-on-one chance in the 40th minute, just a few minutes after the Timbers opened the scoring.
“You see that I’m in the flow,” he continued. “I’m not thinking a lot, I’m just reacting. Like I said, I like to play the way that I play. I believe in that. I’m going to go down doing that. And I’m having a lot of fun, and that translates. I think we’re all having a lot of fun.”
All of Clark’s saves helped keep the game under control. Most of them came a times of disorganization in the Timbers back line. LA’s best chances came when center backs Larrys Mabiala and Julio Cascante were caught ball watching or full backs Jorge Moreira or Jorge Villafana were out of position.
“Playing for each other. Being disciplined. Making sure they stick with the things that we asked them to do. Being clever and covering each other. Making sure that everybody was on the same page in the communication,” head coach Giovanni Savarese said when asked what helped lead to the shutout.
“Then in some moments also, great saves by our goalkeeper,” he continued, making sure to credit his backstop. “In the moments maybe that they found that space, he came up big. Then we found at the end, those extra two goals that gave us the calmness to feel secure in the game. Overall we moved the ball very well. We were clever in our decisions. A very good performance.”
Clark has been a major force between the sticks since taking over for a struggling and injured Jeff Attinella at the end of June. He’s started the last six MLS matches for the club, recorded three sheets, and won four of those six matches. On the whole, the Timbers have only lost once in the 11 games where Clark has started in goal.
Earlier this week, Clark said Providence Park would be “a house of horrors” all summer long. After Saturday’s performance, he brought that fear to life by hoisting his shutout slab of the Timbers victory log while donning a Michael Myers Halloween mask for the second time this season. The first was after another 4-0 win last month against the Houston Dynamo.
The Timbers certainly aren’t afraid at the moment. They haven’t lost in seven games in all competitions, they are in the U.S. Open Cup Semifinals, and they are in a playoff spot for the first time all season long.