PORTLAND, Ore. — After Zlatan Ibrahimovic's headline-grabbing hat trick for the LA Galaxy in a huge rivalry win, there was plenty of talk about what the self-proclaimed lion might do for an encore against the Portland Timbers on Saturday night.
Fortunately for head coach Giovanni Savarese and the Timbers, the defense was up to playing lion tamer, and Ibrahimovic never got out of first gear and eventually stalled out as Portland dominated the Galaxy in a 4-0 win at Providence Park.
“They played for each other and were disciplined stuck with the things that we asked them to do,” said Savarese. “They were clever and covered for each other and made sure that everybody was on the same page with good communication.”
It’s not often that the defense is the talking point on a four-goal night, but several key saves from Clark and a big performance from the backline were able to spur on an attack that more than delivered in a total team performance.
“There was a critical moment in the second half where [Clark] made at least three world-class saves that could have made the ending of that game a lot more nervy than it was,” said Timbers forward Jeremy Ebobisse. “Credit to the backline for shutting down Ibrahimovic, he came in in some form and they didn’t give him much of a sniff and then the attack showed up.”
While Savarese praised a complete team performance, he noted several individual moments that completed the whole night, none more breathtaking than Diego Valeri's solo effort to make it 2-0.
“It was a united performance, but then you have moments like Valeri’s goal, just incredible. He created that whole play and scored an unbelievable goal. Big moments with big players, but collectively it was a great performance.”
The win was made more special in that it was the first time in twenty-five matches spanning four years that the Timbers had been victorious without Diego Chara playing any role in the game. Chara was suspended on yellow card accumulation, but the All-Star midfielder still found a way to contribute.
“He helped during practice so he is part of this victory as well. Everybody participates in every victory that we have. He pushed everybody around during the week to make sure we were ready,” said Savarese. “Today everybody showed a good mentality and showed that the best player is the entire team together.”