We're LIVE at The Jelly where, tonight, streaking is highly discouraged.
Their 15-match unbeaten run in the books, the Timbers look to make losing a one-time thing when they host the LA Galaxy in an 8(ish) p.m. clash of Western Conference contenders.
If beating Seattle never gets old, besting Los Angeles is always welcome to Portland fans of every stripe, shade and chevron. Ah, but the defending Major League Soccer champs appear to be rounding into form midway through the season, rolling into town behind back-to-back wins and playing their best footy of 2013. Sure, Landon Donovan isn't here tonight (he's still on national-team duty) and the Galaxy haven't won a road match in months, but LA's unpredictable style and stout, Omar Gonzalez-anchored defense is enough for PTFC coach Caleb Porter to consider his team "clear underdogs" in this one.
Is Porter slow-playing his hand a bit? Perhaps not. The Timbers haven't allowed a goal in their last six home matches, but that historic trend will be tested with usual starter Pa Modou Kah suspended after straight kicking a dude in the face. Plus, without Capt. Will Johnson and spark plug Rodney Wallace in the building (they're also kicking it with their countrymen) Portland will need to find offense and energy elsewhere.
"You won’t see a team that is losing confidence," Porter said on Friday. "You’ll see a team that is probably a notch more hungry."
And still humble. After last week's not-so-bad loss at Columbus, Porter accentuated the positive.
"It’s not all that bad to get bloodied and taste defeat," he said. "This team will respond positively from defeat, like good teams do."
Will it be enough to beat LA? Click past the jump to find out, and follow along as I deftly describe all the action, on and off the pitch.
Los Angeles (9-7-3, 30 pts)—Carlo Cudinini in goal. AJ DeLaGarza, Sean Franklin, Omar Gonzalez and Todd Dunivant on defense. Robbie Rogers, Hector Jimenez, Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas at midfield. Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes up front.
Rounding out the 18: Jose Villareal, Michael Stephens, Brian Perk, Jack McBean, Colin Clark, Tommy Meyer, Pablo Mastroeni.
Portland (7-2-9, 30 pts)—Donovan Ricketts in goal. Jack Jewsbury, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Futty Danso and Michael Harrington on defense. Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe, Ben Zemanski and Diego Valeri at midfield. Ryan Johnson and Kalif Alhassan up front.
Rounding out the 18: Milos Kocic, Ryan Miller, Rauwshan McKenzie, Sal Zizzo, Jose Valencia, Frederic Piquionne and Sebastian Rincon. Jewsbury is the Cap'n and the Timbers are rolling in their green kits.
Rogers, the first openly gay player in MLS, gets the start for the Galaxy. He said earlier this week that he was looking forward to playing in front of Timbers Army.
"This is a game that really excites me," he said, "because their fans are crazy in a good way."
They're also welcoming: There seems to be a few more rainbow flags in the TA (the ones with the Cascadia tree in the middle are fabulous in every sense of the word) and a banner in front of section 102 reads: "Timbers Army In Solidarity With Robbie Rogers."
FIRST HALF: And away we go(!)...Timbers kick off and will be headed toward the South end.
1st minute—"BEAT LA!" chants serenade the start to this one. Valeri with an early giveaway and a foul. Portland fans would definitely like to see him have a big one tonight. Lots of star power on the pitch when LA comes to town, but there's no reason Valeri can't shine brightest.
2nd—Timbers pass-happy as ever early. Lots of one-touches and quick movement. Both sides apparently trying to out-aggressive each other. This one could be fun to watch.
4th—Chara with a nice ahead to Nagbe, who is fouled by Rogers about 45 yards out. Valeri will line it up in a pretty dangerous spot. He sends it to the top of the box, but LA easily clears.
7th—Chara with a nice run forward and pokes it to Nagbe on his way down to the turf. Nagbe attempts to chip one into the box for Valeri, but nothing doing.
9th—After a bit of sustained possession for LA, Portland counters. Valeri goes into the box for Johnson, who twice gets a head on it twice and pops it to Chara. Diego flashes some acrobatics with a bicycle-attempt (Seriously! Diego Chara!), but it's wide left. Great effort by Johnson to keep that alive.
10th—Galaxy bring it down and Keane fires the first LA shot of the game, but it slices well right.
11th—Juninho with a great ball just before it goes over the end line, and Futty is forced to boot it out for a corner. Free kick comes in and Nagbe clears. Galaxy controlling early here, but Portland still looks dangerous on the counter.
14th—Valeri tries to go across the field for Alhassan, but his ball is crushed over the east sideline. No chance for Kalif there, and Valeri hasn't quite settled in yet.
15th—Keane with a strike from 20 yards after AJ-B fails to clear, but Ricketts is there to gather it in. Keane with a bit too much time to line that one up, the Iron Lion of Zion has a few words for his central defenders.
16th—Nagbe nearly steals one after he wins a goal-kick ball in the box. Corner comes in and it's headed high by Futty.
17th—GALAXY GOAL Sarvas with a clinical header on a great cross by Jimenez. Defensive breakdown there for Portland, who let Sarvas right in the middle of the box unmarked. His header goes low and left and Ricketts has no chance. LA leads 1-0.
20th—A bit of nervous time now for PTFC as Zardes gets one in the box, but there's a bit too much pace on it and Zemanski clears.
21st—Nice run by Nagbe is rewarded with a nicer ball from Alhassan. Darlington goes for the spin move and attempts to cross, but it looks like Gonzalez got a piece of it, and Cudicini steps up to grab it.
23rd—If not for slipping and falling on his bum, Zardes would've scored one there. Great ball into the box by Jimenez, who finds Zardes a step ahead of AJ-B. No harm, no foul but just as Ricketts yells at his defenders, Keane gathers at the top of the box but can't crack a shot. Timbers on the counter and earn a foul 35 yards out. Valeri will line it up.
24th—Valeri's chip floats into the box short and before anything can happen, Futty is called for a foul.
27th—Nagbe fouled just 30 yards out and here comes another dangerous free kick for Portland. TIMBERS GOAL! Portland sneaks one in on a quick restart! Valeri plays it ahead to Nagbe, who crosses to Johnson wide open in front. No problem finishing there for Johnson, and Cudicini is livid. We're tied at 1.
29th—Gonzalez and Johnson wrestling in the Southwest corner and the latter is called for the foul. He's fired up.
30th—The Timbers have a spring in their step. They've regained control of this match. Before a throw-in deep in LA territory, DeLaGarza picks up the match's first yellow.
31st—Johnson gets ahead of the LA defense, but he can't find the handle and loses the ball at the top of the box. LA clears.
32nd—Free kick in a dangerous spot coming after Alhassan fouls Jimenez 35 yards out. Juninho sends it in and Portland holds off LA after Chara smartly shields Rogers off the ball while it goes over the goal line.
35th—LA NEARLY SCORES after Franklin finds Gonzalez wide open in the box. Completely unmarked, he cuts inside and heads one hard down, but it's OFF THE POST. Timbers really dodge on there.
37th—Chara called for a foul just outside the half-circle. Tough call there, but it'll be a super-dangerous free kick coming. Timbers lining up a five-man wall on the penalty spot.
38th—RICKETTS WITH A HUGE SAVE! Juninho crushes one toward the upper-right corner and Ricketts leaps to knock it over the bar. It'll be a corner kick for LA, but man, what a ridiculous save by Ricketts. Wow. World class stuff there. Corner kick sent near post and it's over the end line.
40th—Chara and Sarvas jawing a bit and Sarvas picks up the yellow.
41st—LA nets one on an incredible header by DeLaGarza, but he's called for a push-off. They put the goal on the board for a second, but it's waived off.
42nd—Zardes gets behind the defense and is on a breakaway, but Ricketts comes off his line and slide-tackles the ball away! What a great decision by Ricketts, who continues to play out of his mind.
43rd—Ryan Johnson picks up a yellow card. This one is officially getting chippy.
44th—Zemanski has one from about 40 yards out, but Cucicini is there to grab it. No problem for the LA keeper, but a decent look for Zemanski.
Two minutes of stoppage time...Rogers knocked down by Chara and it'll be a free kick near the Timbers bench. Porter is not happy with the call and the ref comes over for a chat...Juninho sends it in and Ricketts skies to grab it, but it's through his hands. Timbers try to clear and Chara is called for another foul, about 40 yards out. Boos raining on the pitch. Juninho sends it far post, but it's too far. Nobody even close to that one.
HALFTIME: We're tied at 1 after a frenetic first half. Very entertaining action from net to net, and two quality goals. The Portland defense has had a rough one, but Ricketts has kept the Timbers in the match with a number of ridiculous saves.
Some stats: LA out-shot Portland 6-3 with three on target. Galaxy with the edge in possession (52.5%), but Portland has won 52% of the duels. Timbers with 195 passes so far, which feels low.
SECOND HALF: We're back at it...Timbers headed toward their Army. No changes at the half.
46th—AJ-B with an attempted switch, but there's a bit too much on it and a sliding Alhassan can't keep it in right at midfield.
49th—Keane at the top of the box and gets around Zemanski, but Jewsbury with a great tackle to take it away before Keane can do anything with it. Rogers serves a cross into the box but Futty is there to head it away. Timbers on the counter and Nagbe looks to find Chara up the middle, but Gonzalez is just too big. He heads it away and the Galaxy get it back.
52nd—Sarvas fouls Alhassan right around midfield and it'll be a free kick. Harrington on the restart and AJ-B plays a long ball for Johnson, who beats DeLaGarza to the ball but is called offside.
53rd—Keane gets into the box and plays it for Sarvas, but it gets past him. Jimeniz is there and gets a foot on it in the box, but it'll be no problem for Ricketts.
54th—Valeri go back and forth and Alhassan eventually plays a nice ball into the box for Valeri. He slides and shoots, but Cudicini is there to collect.
55th—Timbers on the counter. They have a 4-on-3, but Chara's ball is behind Nagbe. Juninho is down in the Timbers box, and we'll pause here as the trainers come out to take care of him.
57th—Alhassan called for a handball just inside midfield. Not the worst call, but the TImbers Army and Porter aren't pleased one bit.
60th—First sub of the night: Piquionne coming on for Alhassan.
61st—TWO FANTASTIC SAVES by Cudicini. Nagbe dribbles into the box and gets around Gonzalez. He shoots and Cudicini stretches to make an incredible save! The rebound comes bounding out toward Johnson, who shoots, but Cudicini comes sliding out to make another save. Corner kick coming. Wow.
62nd—Corner comes in and Nagbe again with some fancy dribbling at the top of the box. He leaves it for Zemanski, who fires, but the ball sails on him. Goal kick, LA.
65th—Johnson knocked down from behind and it'll be a free kick for Portland just inside midfield. They take it short. Piquionne ends up with it and dribbles right into the box. He tries to chip one, but Cudicini is there to nab it.
69th—Gonzalez with lots of space to run and steps into a shot. Chara wears it, and the Timbers regain possession. They bring it up, but Harrington's attempted cross for Nagbe is well behind him.
70th—Corner kick for LA after Franklin with a dangerous cross into the box that Jewsbury is forced to boot over the line. LA makes a sub, it'll be Clark on for Rogers.
71st—Ball served in and goes over everyone, including Jewsbury and Harrington. Yikes. Scary ball there. LA earns a throw in the Southwest corner but Portland clears.
73rd—LA with some possession in Portland's end, but the Timbers defense is holding up so far.
74th—Piquionne flips one ahead for Nagbe, who gets into the box, but Franklin and DeLaGarza combine to knock it away. LA with another sub: Villarreal on for Jimenez.
75th—Timbers with a free kick about 45 yards out. Valeri cracks it through the box and Johnson tries to get a foot on it to keep it in, but the ball's called out.
77th—Johnson with a great ball into the box for Piquionne, but it's just high. Action is picking up here as Johnson with another attempted cross. That one is headed away by Sarvas.
79th—Final sub for LA: McBean is on for Keane. Fans rain boos on the pitch.
80th—The BEAT LA is picking back up. Timbers with a bit of possession but LA is staying with it. On the counter, LA brings it down in the box and Clark ends up with it at his feet. He shoots and Jewsbury deflects it over the line. Corner coming.
81st—Juninho sends it near post and the Timbers clear.
82nd—Zardes with a turn in the box and cracks a shot, but Ricketts goes to the ground to make another big save.
83rd—Chara is down about 35 yards out of the box. He's holding his leg and grimacing. Looks like a cramp, and here come the trainers.
85th—Chara back on his feet and Portland will make a sub. It's Trencito coming on for Johnson.
86th—Zemanski and Sarvas get mixed up at midfield and the latter picks up the foul. Quick restart and Portland brings it down. Valeri with a savvy little pass ahead to Nagbe, but there's a bit too much on that one.
88th—Scary moment for Portland as Villarreal makes a mess of the Portland defense in the box. He pushes off Harrington and knocks it forward, but Harrington is able to recover and boot it over the west sideline.
89th—Foul called 45 yards out. Free kick coming from LA. This is why they have Juninho.
90th—Juninho sends it in right at Ricketts. No problem for Portland and a big-time missed chance for LA there.
Five minutes of extra time...Piquionne gets past DeLaGarza and is taken down in the box. No call. Fans chanting "BULLSHIT!" and that's a tough call.... McBean pushes Futty aside at midfield and has a breakaway. He runs down the right side but before he can do anything, Zemanski gets back and knocks it away. It'll be a corner kick, but a nice play but Zemanski ... Ricketts called for a yellow card after a shove. ... Juninho sends it in out-swinging and Franklin gets a head on it, but it's just over the cross bar. That was a close one. .... Trencito earns a corner out of nothing. Great play there as he slides to knock it off DeLaGarza. TIMBERS GOAL! ANDREW JEAN-BAPTISTE! Valeri sends it in and AJ-B somehow gets a header on it. He rips off his jersey and runs to the corner to flex. And this place is going nuts! The press box is shaking. Timbers lead, 2-1. Baptiste gets a yellow card for ditching his blouse, and Zizzo will come on for Nagbe.
FULL TIME: Timbers win 2-1. What an unbelievable finish! Jean-Baptiste is being mobbed by his teammates and his smile is as big as it gets. LA coach Bruce Arena comes over the jaw the ref and someone is showed a yellow at midfield. A postgame rendition of Tetris in Timbers Army, and it's just pure ecstasy here. Unreal end to a great match and with the win, Portland sits alone in second place out west.