PORTLAND, Ore.--Despite missing midfielders Giovani and Jonathan dos Santos to the World Cup and striker Ola Kamara to international duty, LA Galaxy coach Sigi Schmid didn't feel he could start Zlatan Ibrahimovic in Saturday's visit to the Portland Timbers.
Schmid opted instead for Chris Pontius and Emmanuel Boateng. His choice paid off, as Pontius scored to help the Galaxy leave Portland with a point after a 1-1 draw and snap the Timbers' six-game winning streak.
“It was decision that we felt we had to make," Schmid explained, adding that Providence Park's artificial surface combined with the relative recency of Ibrahimovic's ACL surgery (just over a year ago) to factor heavily in the decision.
"We didn’t want [Ibrahimovic] to play a lot of minutes on it, so basically that’s the way we went," Schmid said.
The Swedish superstar was coming off a brace in LA's 3-2 loss to FC Dallas in mid-week, and he eventually came on for the final 18 minutes of Saturday's match but never seriously threatened. He wasn't the only person to struggle during the match's final stages, which were the most impacted by Mother Nature.
“I think the heat was mostly a distraction in the second half," Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said. "You could tell the rhythm of the play went down for both teams and it became a difficult match.”
The Galaxy finished with only three shots on target, but also mostly shut down Portland's offense in the second half after they were bailed out several times by 'keeper David Bingham in the first. Portland's equalizer came though Diego Valeri's 57th-minute penalty.
"I was happy with how we played," Schmid said. "Obviously we got shots, we go to do a better job of putting our shots on target. There are a couple of our front players that are not in a good rhythm right now, just not in good form, but I thought overall the team did a good job defensively."
Schmid also said finding "the right system to play" to get the most out of Ibrahimovic and the rest of his roster is still a work in progress. Pontius, who began the game in the No. 9 role, believes that's achievable.
"Obviously we're missing a couple key pieces but the beautiful thing about our team is we are deep," Pontius said. "We've got guys who have played in big games and know how to play a few different roles."