When referee Alan Kelly showed Derrick Williams a straight red card in the 44th minute of Saturday’s match at Providence Park, there was a sense of acceptance on the LA Galaxy center back’s face.
The Irish defender, signed this past March from Championship side Blackburn Rovers, knew he logged a dangerous challenge on Andy Polo, one that sent the Portland Timbers forward skyward and twisting.
The game flipped on its head from there, as Galaxy head coach Greg Vanney phrased it, opening the door for three second-half goals in a 3-0 win for the shorthanded Timbers. And postgame, Vanney was quick to acknowledge the decision.
“It's a tackle that is going to be a red card every single time,” Vanney said. “For me, it was almost [from] Derrick a delayed reaction and that he probably should have read the play a little bit earlier and been a little bit tighter and he could have dealt with it in a different way.
“Then he saw it happen and was just so committed to the challenge at that point that it just became, with the amount of force, it's just never going to be OK, whether it's this league or any other league. It just becomes a challenge that's going to be a red card every time.”
RED CARD: Derrick Williams, LA Galaxy - 44th minute
The Galaxy shifted to a 4-3-2 formation in response, with center back Nick Depuy brought on to shore up their defense. Vanney said LA didn’t want to bunker, but rather hoped forwards Kevin Cabral and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez could serve as outlets to relieve pressure.
Felipe Mora made that task even more difficult, as the Chilean forward scored twice across a 13-minute span, starting in the 47th minute. Diego Valeri then went top corner on a penalty kick in the 69th minute, showing how much Williams’ red card altered the game’s course.
Polo was shown on the TV broadcast in a leg brace and crutches, clearly hobbled after being undercut by Williams. It only adds to Portland’s injury troubles, as they entered Week 6 with nine players ruled out across all positional groups.
“It’s unfortunate when there's a tackle like that,” Portland head coach Giovanni Savarese said, adding Polo’s condition was worrisome. “You don't want to see that on the field and especially having players that then have to come out as with that situation. So right now, the most important part is hopefully that Polo can come back."
This was Williams’ fourth MLS game, and now LA will definitely be without him for next Saturday’s California Clasico when hosting the San Jose Earthquakes (7 pm ET | UniMas, TUDN, Twitter). It remains to be seen if he will miss additional time via the MLS Disciplinary Committee.
In Williams’ place, Depuy would seem the likeliest candidate to step in alongside Daniel Steres. Depuy started LA’s first two games of the year and has enjoyed strong performances in MLS, possibly shoring up the pairing in front of goalkeeper Jonathan Bond.
“I thought Nick had a good start and had some good moments early in the season,” Vanney said. “Came into a very difficult situation in this game, and so there were challenges presented to him that were different than normal if you're 11-v-11. Whether it's Nick or whomever, we'll have to manage it in a better way. But the next guy just has to step up. We've been doing it all year with young guys, with center backs, with different guys.”
LA have two 3-0 losses on the year, both from visits to clubs in the Pacific Northwest. They also fell to the league-leading Seattle Sounders back in Week 3, a humbling result amid a strong start since Vanney came aboard from previously managing Toronto FC.
After playing down a man, broad proclamations about the Galaxy are likely misguided. They had still had 1.2 xG (expected goals) and 14 shots, but faced long odds in the second half.
“The points always matter because we're always here to take something away, but at the end of the day, in this moment of the season, we have been able to give ourselves a little bit of a cushion to have some learning moments that you're going to have over the course of 34 games,” Vanney said.
“Today was for sure, the second half was one of those. Even the first, to be honest, [Portland] forced us to have to create opportunities against a lower block. We weren't as effective at that in the first half and we need to become better at that. So for me, two very different halves, two lessons to take from each half. We'll build off of those as we continue to move forward.”