After a run of seven defeats in eight games, there is no longer any margin for error if the LA Galaxy are to make a late-season charge to avoid missing out on the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs. Anything less than a win against the Portland Timbers on Wednesday (10 pm ET | TV & streaming info) would likely leave the five-time MLS Cup winners needing a miracle to avoid an early finish to their 2020 season.
Yet, with the stakes so high for their opponents, the Timbers are not expecting things to be straightforward at Providence Park.
"We are preparing for a very difficult match against a team that is coming and needing points, a team that we know that individually has very good players," Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese said in a pre-match press conference Tuesday. "It makes them be the more dangerous [team].
"We need to be our top level. We need to be very sharp," he added. "We need to be mentally prepared to this game that is going to be complicated to the level that I feel we need to manage every scenario, every situation in the best possible way."
Despite Savarese's respect for his opponent, the Galaxy will have to conquer their own demons to get any points out of Portland on Wednesday. The team may not be too far removed from its first win since the beginning of September, a 1-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps on Oct. 18, but they remain rooted to the bottom of the Western Conference with 18 points, six adrift of the last playoff berth.
And the problems are piling up. Designated player Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez is still looking to make his mark on MLS having scored just once in an injury-interrupted season. The defense continues to leak goals, with 21 goals conceded in their last eight games. The team's brightest spot in 2020 has been forward Cristian Pavon, though even his form has fallen of late and the Galaxy are reportedly unwilling to pay the $20 million Boca Juniors want to secure a permanent transfer at the end of the season.
The pressure may be on the Galaxy but the Timbers have their own reasons for wanting the three points. Savarese's side have gone three games without a win and conceded late equalizers against LAFC and Seattle in their last two games. A win is needed on Wednesday to keep the pressure on Seattle and Sporting Kansas City in the three-way battle to finish top of the West.
They may be boosted in that effort by the return of forward Jeremy Ebobisse. The forward, who has nine goals in 2020, missed the team's last game against the Seattle Sounders with a concussion, but the team is hopeful of having back in time for Wednesday's game.
"He’s progressing very well," Savarese said. "He’s doing much, much better. He has passed already a few phases of the protocol and constantly we are trying to make sure if he’s available or not and we’ll know later today."
The Timbers have had had four different players score their last four goals, though, as the attack looks to share the goalscoring load. With or without Ebobisse, that should come in handy against a Galaxy side they beat 6-3 when the two sides met earlier this month.