PORTLAND, Ore. – Two Western Conference teams desperate to start putting wins together could only find a share of points, as the Portland Timbers and LA Galaxy played to a 1-1 draw on a bluebird Sunday afternoon at Providence Park – but not before stoppage-time drama from both sides.
Just moments after LA’s Robbie Keane appeared to have nicked the winner on a 92nd-minute header goal, Portland’s Diego Valeri came to the rescue with the equalizer at the death, highlighting a frenetic finish in the nationally-televised showdown. The visitors could have iced the game before Valeri struck on a play that saw Juninho break in free on goal, but he was knocked off the ball and play continued despite LA's protests for denial of a clear goal-scoring opportunity.
The Galaxy, the most dangerous team on the afternoon with 21 shots to the Timers’ 10, weren’t able make the most of what was likely Landon Donovan’s final game before he heads to US national team camp. That means he will probably have to wait until after the World Cup before resuming his quest for MLS’ all-time leading 136th goal.
After starting the month of April with two wins, the Galaxy are now winless in their last three games and remain in seventh place with nine points from seven games. The Timbers, meanwhile, weren’t able to build momentum after beating D.C. United last week and stay tied with the Galaxy on nine points but in eighth place after 10 games.
The snake-bit Timbers were nearly singing another tune after inexplicably letting a long throw-in from Dan Gargan travel all the way to an unmarked Keane for what appeared to be the winner after 91 minutes of mostly solid defense.
But a week after finding their first win of the season over D.C on a stoppage-time winner by Maximiliano Urruti, Valeri came to the Timbers' rescue when captain Will Johnson found him free in the box. Valeri sent a roller just under Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo to send the sell-out crowd into a frenzy.
The Galaxy applied the most pressure, controlling possession throughout the early going.
Before the half-hour mark, striker Rob Friend and midfielder Stefan Ishizaki each teed up shots from distance that were just off frame. LA’s best chance early on came in the 40th minute when they hit Portland on a counter attack and Donovan found Keane for an open shot in the box. But Donovan Ricketts was there for a diving save.
Portland’s best chance in the opening half came in the 34th minute when Valeri fleeced Kofi Opare just outside the box and had an open look on goal. But one touch too many for Valeri allowed LA’s defense to recover and shepherd away the threat.
In the 53rd minute, Valeri worked into free space at the edge of the penalty box and uncorked a laser that Penedo parried away with a diving save. Darlington Nagbe took another shot at it on the rebound, but Penedo was there again for the save.
Then six minutes later, off a Valeri free kick, center back Mamadou “Futty” Danso was left unmarked and sent a header that just nicked off the post before being cleared out.
Donovan’s best chance for the record-breaking goal came in the 81st minute with the Galaxy pushing for the winner when he whipped in a left-footed shot from the top of the area that required the work of Ricketts.
The Timbers next play host to the Columbus Crew on Saturday, while the Galaxy hit the road to face the Houston Dynamo on the same day.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Dan Gargan||Aside from what appeared to be a game-winning assist on a long throw-in, Gargan showed well in defense as well as in the attack.|
|2||Pa Modou Kah||The Timbers center back killed off several promising attacks against a Galaxy side that looked more dangerous. He was a rock at the back.|
|3||Donovan Ricketts||Another strong perfromance from the veteran goalkeeper, who kept Portland in the match with several acrobatic stops.|
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.