PORTLAND, Ore. – All the factors were right for Andrew Jean-Baptiste’s celebration.
The second-year central defender had just scored the winning goal in the 94th minute of the Portland Timbers’ 2-1 victory Saturday night over two-time defending MLS Cup champion LA Galaxy. The Timbers Army was coming unglued, shaking JELD-WEN Field to its foundation as they celebrated what was then a sure-fire victory in a passion-filled game between the two Western Conference playoff contenders.
So why not tear off your shirt, stand in front of the frenzied crowd, arms outstretched, and soak it all in?
“I’ve just waiting for a good time to bust it out,” Jean-Baptiste said of a celebration he apparently had been planning for quite some time. “If I had scored a goal in Columbus I probably wouldn’t have done it, but I feel like this was that occasion, this was the time to do it. Game winner, nice body, why not.”
No, Jean-Baptiste does not lack confidence.
And that’s just what Timbers head coach Caleb Porter said they needed after coming off their first loss in four months after last weekend’s 1-0 defeat on the road against Columbus, ending their franchise-record 15-game unbeaten streak.
“Right off the bat, when we came back coach was like, ‘We’re not losing two games in a row,’” said Jean-Baptiste, whose header off a Diego Valeri corner kick was his first goal of the season. “He won’t allow it. That’s just not us; we’re not going to lose two games in a row. We’re confident in our team that we’re not going to lose two games in a row, and obviously tonight we showed it. We’re back on our horse again.”
The comeback victory was also another in what is becoming a long line of adversity-filled results for the side now alone in second place in the West with 33 points from 19 games. The Galaxy had taken a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute on a Marcelo Sarvas goal, and appeared to be controlling the match in the first half, but Portland roared back. They equalized in the 27th minute on a Ryan Johnson goal, and then started taking the fight to the Galaxy in the second half.
“We do adversity very well,” Jean-Baptiste said. “We never give up. We just never give up, that’s how we are. We’ve been down goals numerous times, and we just show character and heart and passion.”
And with captain Will Johnson away with Canada for the Gold Cup, as well as forward Rodney Wallace (Costa Rica), the Timbers could have easily been satisfied with escaping with a draw. But Porter’s second-half substitutions – forwards Frederic Piquionne and Jose Valencia – were all about getting that win.
“You gain belief through success, and when you’re in a game like this when you’ve got two very good teams and it’s tight and the margin for error is slim and you’re one play away from winning the game, one play away from losing the game, winning teams when you need more you get more, losing teams they shrink,” Porter said. “And we grew, and I thought we got bigger as the game wore on. And when the game was one the line, and we needed a play and we needed to dig deep, I thought we dug deep and made a play.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.