PORTLAND, Ore. — The walk from the locker room to the pressroom after games at JELD-WEN Field hasn’t been a pleasant one for Portland Timbers head coach John Spencer in quite some time.
That changed in a big way Wednesday as the Timbers secured their signature win of the expansion club’s inaugural season, a 3-0 shocker over the first-place LA Galaxy.
“I haven’t enjoyed that walk in a long time,” Spencer said with a smile before he addressed the media throng.
The LA victory was redemption in many ways for the formerly beleaguered side and coach.
Portland hadn’t won at home since a 1-0 decision May 21 against Columbus. They had squandered leads in three of their last four home matches — which included bitterly disappointing results in a loss to rival Seattle and tie against Toronto.
And the Timbers were in a skid that saw them win just once in their last 10 matches.
“I’ve had to answer a lot of tough questions here, you guys questioning my players’ heart, motivation, fitness,” Spencer said. “It hurt me because these guys are under me, and I care for them deeply. Tonight, everyone connected with the Portland Timbers should be very, very proud.”
Spencer said he knew such a complete performance was a possibility, but to do it against the Galaxy — a team with a MLS-leading 45 points riding a league-best 14-game unbeaten streak coming into the match — certainly raised some eyebrows.
And they did it without All-Star midfielder and captain Jack Jewsbury, who was unavailable with an injured hamstring, and starting forward Eddie Johnson, who was a late scratch after sustaining a concussion during warm-ups, no less.
So how did it happen? First off, the defense that kept Toronto scoreless for the first 70 minutes in a 2-2 tie on Saturday, finally put together a complete match.
“I think a lot of the criticism in the past few weeks, the guys took it personally,” Spencer said.
LA didn’t record a shot on goal in the first half and only had one for the game. And attacker Landon Donovan — the player Spencer practically bragged about all week as being the best in the US, and the co-league leader with 11 goals — was unable to get off a shot.
And Portland followed up their season-high 11 shots on goal against Toronto with six against LA.
“We came in at halftime, and everyone said the same thing, ‘It’s 0-0,’” Timbers goalkeeper Troy Perkins said. “And the guys kept fighting.”
Defender Mike Chabala, who was acquired two weeks ago in a trade with Houston, scored his first MLS goal in a Timbers jersey after tallying in a friendly against Independiente last week. And forward Jorge Perlaza scored his first goal since the July 10 loss against Seattle.
“We played very well and beat the team that is arguably the best in the league,” Spencer said. “I don’t think there was one player who you could say didn’t put in a fantastic performance.”
Even after Eric Brunner’s header goal in the 68th minute to make the score 3-0, the Timbers weren’t about to loosen their grip.
“We still wanted to get that shutout,” Brunner said.
For the first time in quite a while, they got it.