If Chivas USA reach the postseason, they'll have to send a thank-you card to the Rose City.
Danny Califf scored as a scrappy Chivas side beat Portland 1-0 at JELD-WEN Field on Saturday, and in doing so, completed a season sweep of the Timbers.
Just 10 days ago, the Red-and-White took an identical result from a home match against the Timbers, and having faced them so soon was a benefit for Chivas, who went into the game with the confidence.
“It helped to have played them recently," Califf (above, third from right) told reporters after Saturday's victory. "I think the personnel they put out tonight didn’t change much from when we played. “That was good in knowing how to match up with them.”
HIGHLIGHTS: Portland 0, Chivas USA 1
More important, Chivas took a large step in continuing their chase towards the playoffs. While they remained seven points behind the LA Galaxy for the fifth and final Western Conference playoff spot, the Goats have three games in hand against their in-stadium rivals as well as one more meeting this season.
The goal came from an unlikely source. Califf, who was unsuccessful in his first trip to Portland this year, knocked in his first goal as a Chivas player. In the 68th minute, the veteran defender leaped for a free kick from Ben Zemanski and beat Portland ‘keeper Troy Perkins to the ball. Califf knocked it into an open net and gave Chivas the only goal they would need.
Califf was with the Philadelphia Union when they visited Portland in the season opener for both sides. In that match, the Timbers scored three goals, taking advantage of a shaky Union defense. Saturday was different.
“It’s fantastic," said Califf. "The couple times I’ve been here before have not turned out very well at all for me, so it was great to come out tonight and get on the score sheet. It’s been a while, the first game [I have scored in] since last year, so it feels great to come in, in a really difficult place to play and be able to get three points.”
Portland forced Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy to make six saves. Perhaps his least challenging should have been the one to have broken open the scoring. Diego Chara forced the MLS All-Star to make a sprawling save in the 42nd minute. The ball bounced out to Boyd, but the Scottish striker fanned on the rebound from some six yards out and the ball fell harmlessly to Kennedy.
Chivas also dodged a few other bullets, mostly in the first half, and staved off a hard-charging Timbers side in the final minutes.
“You see it in soccer sometimes,” Califf said, “where teams can throw everything and the kitchen sink and have lots of opportunities and lots of shots on the night and nothing will fall, and the other team can have one or two chances and put them away and walk away with the victory.”
That the victory came in a challenging venue made it perhaps a bit more memorable.
“Coming in here and playing them is completely different than at your home place,” Califf said. “It’s an intimidating atmosphere, it’s a great place to play, there’s so much energy, so for us it’s an incredible result.”
Luis Bueno covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.