Pa Modou Kah has played in all of four MLS games.
It took him all of about five minutes to get to know MLS royalty Landon Donovan on Wednesday night in the Portland Timbers’ scoreless draw against the LA Galaxy at StubHub Center. And get to know him well.
Kah, who’s no stranger to going toe to toe with world-class goal scorers from his time with the Norwegian national team and top clubs throughout Scandinavia, thwarted three excellent chances by Donovan in the first half to highlight an overall rock-solid performance from the Portland backline.
“This was another test for me,” Kah told MLSsoccer.com. “Being here in MLS you play against some top strikers, and you have to stand your ground. But it’s not only about me, it’s the performance of the team and the performance of the team was good.”
Somewhat overshadowed this season by Portland’s high-scoring offense, the defense took center stage in a back-and-forth showdown between the two Western Conference playoff hopefuls. And it shined a spotlight on what has been an impressive run of results for the Timbers backline, notching their second straight clean sheet and only allowing two goals – both in one half against Chicago – in their last four games.
Coincidentally, Kah, signed at the beginning of May to combat a rash of injuries, has played in all four of those games.
“I think we played a very good game, I think we controlled the game,” Kah said.
Kah’s best play of the night came in the 42nd minute when he perfectly timed a tackle in the box to strip an onrushing Donovan. The Galaxy had 13 shots but just four on goal. And, of course, the resurrection story of goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts marches on after another solid performance with four saves for his seventh shutout of the season.
“The center backs and the whole backline played good, and also we have a tremendous goalkeeper,” Kah said. “The whole back line today played fantastic.”
It was also just Kah’s third full game with center back partner Andrew Jean-Baptiste, who also didn’t disappoint when called into question on a number of occasions.
Kah said he and Jean-Baptiste are already comfortable with one another and that the second-year pro has a promising career ahead of him.
“For me, he’s a big talent,” Kah said. “I think he can be a top player, but there’s a lot of work still for him to do. But ‘Drew was amazing.”
All in all, Kah said he’s happy to have joined a team in the middle of an historic run.
Portland extended their franchise-record unbeaten streak to 14 games, which is tied for fourth best in league history. They remain the league’s only unbeaten team on the road. That streak now stands at 10 games, making them only the second MLS team ever to go unbeaten away from home in double-digit games.
And head coach Caleb Porter now owns the longest unbeaten streak for any first-year MLS coach.
“The season is not finished, and our goal is to just push and be ambitious,” Kah said. “We just have to keep our head down. We have a game on Sunday, which is equally important and we just have to be our best.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.