Despite goal binge in Portland, LA still rue porous defense

The LA Galaxy marveled over their offensive prowess in Saturday night's 5-3 triumph at Portland, especially during that four-goals-in-nine-minutes span of the first half, but their fifth victory in seven games since Major League Soccer's mini-break ended a month ago wasn't fully satisfying.

The Timbers scored all three of their goals from or following set pieces – a recurring problem for LA, which were forced to work much harder for three points than they should have.

“I was disappointed, because that could have been a game where we easily could have had control,” said Galaxy coach Bruce Arena, whose team has rallied from early deficits three times in the past month, most notably failing to hold onto their advantage against San Jose a couple of weeks ago at Stanford Stadium. “Not that we didn't, but I think we can do better. ...

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“You go on the road and score five goals, by any stretch of the imagination, you should walk away with three points. I'd be very disappointed if that wasn't the case. We did enough to get three points tonight.”

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That's down to David Beckham, who scored two brilliant goals and assisted a third; Robbie Keane, who netted a pair; and Landon Donovan, who converted a penalty kick and fed Keane's strike for the fourth goal in the 28th minute, which tied the league record for fastest four goals set in a 2004 Galaxy victory over D.C. United.

LA's defense, by far the best in the league last year, continues to be solid one moment, not so the next. Nine of the last 17 goals they've surrendered, starting with the May 19 SuperClasico loss to Chivas USA, have come from set pieces or penalty kicks. They've posted four shutouts in the past month; in the other three games, they've conceded four, two and three goals.

Kris Boyd scored two and created the third Saturday for Portland. He superbly touched home Kalif Alhassan's one-bounce ball into the box following a corner kick in the third minute, and two blistering free kicks – the first spilled by Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders for Kosuke Kimura to finish, the second rifling inside the right post – narrowed LA's advantage to 4-2 and 5-3.

“A really poor start by us ...,” Donovan said. “We got punished on a few set pieces again, which is frustrating.”

It's a byproduct, in part, of MLS Defender of the Year Omar Gonzalez's knee injury, and LA certainly missed his 6-foot-5 frame and aggressiveness on set pieces against the Timbers as well as in each game up to this point during the 2012 season.

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San Jose's late comeback for a 3-2 win May 23 at the Home Depot Center began with Steven Lenhart's header from a corner kick, and Khari Stephenson netted the tying goal from the spot after a Beckham hand ball. Andre Hainault's second-half header from a corner carried Houston to a 2-1 win on May 26. The Earthquakes scored twice on corners, including Chris Wondolowski's winner, in the 4-3 thriller June 30 at Stanford. Now add Portland's trio.

“It's always fun when you score goals, but, like any professional, you're disappointed in the goals we conceded,” said Keane, who has scored braces in successive games. “Overall, we're obviously delighted with the win, but we certainly have to stop these goals we're conceding, because it seems that we have to score a lot more goals to beat teams, and that shouldn't be the case.”