PORTLAND, Ore. – Saying you have confidence going up against the MLS Cup champions LA Galaxy and their potent attack is one thing. Having the results to back it up is another.
And the Portland Timbers do have past success to draw from when they play host to LA in Sunday’s nationally televised matinee at JELD-WEN Field (3:30 pm ET, NBC). The Timbers played LA to a scoreless draw in Southern California on June 19 and then defeated the Galaxy 2-1 on July 13 in the Rose City.
Portland’s success against the two-time MLS Cup champions even dates back to their inaugural season in the league when they dominated LA in a 3-0 win at JELD-WEN Field on Aug. 3, 2011.
“You draw off those experiences,” said Timbers defender Jack Jewsbury, who was one of just a handful of players on this year’s team who were around for that 3-0 victory two years ago. “Even in the 0-0 draw down there, keeping a shutout against arguably the best attacking group in the league says a lot our defense and how organized we are as a group. This game is going to be different. It will pose different problems for us and we’ll have to take care of it on the field. But we’re definitely a confident group going into it.”
That Galaxy attack is led by the forward duo of Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan, although it's unclear if Donovan will be ready to start in Sunday's match-up as he recovers from a sprained ankle that has kept him out of two consecutive matches, including LA's midweek CONCACAF Champions League triumph vs. Costa Rica's Cartaginés.
“I think when they turn it up and they have everybody healthy I think they’re the toughest team to beat in the league,” Timbers head coach Caleb Porter said. “I think when they have everybody, they’re definitely a much better team … When they don’t have both those guys, now the talent is leveled and it comes down to their organization and how they play and all those little details.”
Adding to the Timbers’ confidence this week is their performance in a 1-0 victory last weekend over Colorado. It was a game in which the Rapids dominated much of the run of play but were only able to get off one shot on goal, leading Porter to call the defensive performance a “breakthrough.”
Porter knows it will take the equivalent and possibly more to get a result from Sunday’s game – especially if Donovan and Keane suit up together.
“Those are two guys that will hurt you for sure, and we need to be aware of them,” Porter said. “But our guys will take some confidence from those first two games knowing that we can manage those two players.”
Dan Itel covers the Portland Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.