CARSON, Calif. – The first preseason matches for MLS teams are difficult to gauge, as was the case in Tuesday’s LA Galaxy vs. Portland Timbers match at the Home Depot Center.
The Galaxy were nonplussed about the Timbers’ 4-1 victory, and pointed to positives in both the starter-filled first-half and reserve-laden second half.
“Overall, our ball movement, the possession and defending was actually quite good,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena told reporters after the match. “Obviously, we get caught on a goal on a corner kick, and a pretty bad mistake by Todd Dunivant basically gives them a goal. Give them credit for being an aggressive team at times and doing a good job and getting guys behind the ball.”
With Edson Buddle playing for the Galaxy for the first time in more than a year and with players in somewhat different roles – Bryan Jordan at right back, Sean Franklin at right midfield, Paolo Cardozo at forward – LA had some adjustments to make.
Portland took advantage, jumping on the Galaxy with a pair of early goals. First, Bright Dike banged in a header off a corner kick in the eighth minute. Moments later, Portland trialist Franck Songo’o stole the ball from Dunivant near the end line, then fed Jorge Perlaza at the spot. The Colombian banged it past Josh Saunders for a quick two-goal lead.
The Timbers’ rapid-fire goals notwithstanding, not all was lost.
“I thought we played well in the first half,” Franklin said. “There were a couple of times we could have done better defensively as a team, but that’s what the preseason is for, to get things right before the season starts. We didn’t win but … we showed some good moment.”
David Beckham saw action for the first time this preseason as he played the first 45 minutes. Aside from a few dangerous corner kicks and long-range attempts, the veteran was fairly quiet.
“I’ve never really been a big fan of preseason friendlies," he told reporters. "You’re trying to get your fitness in them and you’re trying to work each other out. Today was one of those games where the result is not great, but more importantly it’s about getting our fitness. The big games start in a month or so, so we should be back fully fit by then.”
The second half featured a different 11 for the Galaxy and Portland changed all but Dike and goalkeeper Troy Perkins. The Timbers scored their third goal in the 67th minute when Khalif Alhassan slipped a ball to James Marcelin, who beat the offside trap and Galaxy ‘keeper Nick Noble to score into an empty net.
Dan Keat countered with a goal off a bicycle kick in the 80th minute, but Kyle Nakazawa was whistled for a handball inside the box and Mamadou “Futty” Danso converted the penalty just before the final whistle.
Still, the match left some Galaxy players with mixed feelings.
“With a different result, it would be a better mood,” Buddle said of his first game back with the team, before finding the bright side of the 4-1 hiding. “There’s things to work on, and that’s a good thing.”
Luis Bueno covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org