CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy lacked sharpness going forward, and that was enough to derail any plans they had to nab all three points Wednesday night against Portland. Their defensive performance in the 0-0 draw at the StubHub Center made it all quite palatable.
The Galaxy shut down Portland's vibrant attack from start to finish, conceding just four shots on frame and none that bothered goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini while posting just their second shutout in their last eight MLS matches.
That almost made a tie feel like victory, especially after conceding eight goals in their last two matches – one-sided losses at New England and Real Salt Lake – and so many late, decisive strikes all season long.
“That was our No. 1 priority tonight, was to get a shutout and have a good defensive performance,” said left back Todd Dunivant, who returned to the lineup after missing the last three games, and seven of the last 10, with a lingering leg injury. “That was without a doubt priority No. 1 and we accomplished that. Disappointing not to get the win and not get a goal, but we'll take a shutout.”
Rafa Garcia, stepping in for suspended Marcelo Sarvas, teamed with Juninho in midfield to limit Diego Valeri's effectiveness and deny the Timbers, who had scored 10 times in their previous five matches, opportunity to create legitimate scoring chances. The backline, anchored by A.J. DeLaGarza and aided by second-year defender Tommy Meyer's best showing this season, won virtually every battle with Portland's attackers.
“A step forward [for the defense], keeping a shutout against a very hot team right now ...,” said DeLaGarza, who expects to reunite with partner Omar Gonzalez in Sunday's SuperClasico against Chivas USA. “I don't remember anything that really troubled Carlo the entire game. We were in position to make plays when we needed to that we didn't make the last two games.”
The difference, he said, was “just winning tackles. In New England, we were missing tackles, everyone, and guys were just slipping through. And again, missing our marks in the box in Salt Lake, and here we were pretty solid.”
They were cognizant of what was needed at the end, after conceding 13 goals this year in the final 15 minutes of games, all competitions, five of them in the last two games.
“That was a big thing,” Dunivant said. “The difference tonight, everyone was really tuned in. And 15 minutes [left], 10 minutes, five minutes, everyone was looking around, looking at the next guy, keeping them going. I think all over the field we were good and concentrated. That was great.”