People who watched Wednesday night's match between the Portland Timbers and the Los Angeles Galaxy on ESPN2 might as well have been watching Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. In a complete role reversal from what most would have predicted, the Timbers were a great white shark and the Galaxy were a helpless chumsicle.
In what has to be considered their biggest and most electrifying win of the season, Portland defeated L.A. 3-0 before an announced sellout crowd of 18,627 at Jeld-Wen Field.
'We took our opportunities at the right moment,' Timbers coach John Spencer said. 'We played ever so well. I asked the guys from the first minute to try and out-run them every inch of the field, and we did that tonight.
'It's a very, very pleasing result, after the way things have been going. We've played very well and beat a team that is possibly the best team in the country right now."
The Timbers (7-10-4, 25 points) played like a side with a monstrous chip on its shoulder, especially in the first half. The offense was probing and relentless, outshooting the Galaxy (12-3-9, 45 points) by a staggering count of 9-0.
In the 26th minute, Darlington Nagbe and Mike Chabala executed a flawless give-and-go to put Portland up 1-0.
Chabala passed the ball forward to Nagbe along the left touchline. As Nagbe received the pass and took a touch, Chabala stole in behind the defense like a thief in the night. Nagbe sent the ball back to Chabala, who was just outside the 18-yard box on the left side.
Chabala sent a rocket to the far post. The shot grazed a Galaxy defender's boot. The graze may have elevated the ball just a little. It would not have mattered, though. L.A. goalkeeper Josh Saunders, a former USL Timber starter, was dead to the rights as the ball sailed into the upper right corner.
'When the ball came over, I wanted to keep it a little bit between 'Nags' and myself,' Chabala said. 'We were just trying to keep the ball in play between us and see if we could break them down. Once (Nagbe) took the first touch down the line, I just jetted inside. I put my head down and made good contact and tried to put it on frame.'
The Timbers stunned the Galaxy with a second goal in the 33rd minute.
Kenny Cooper played a throw-in off his chest. He brought the ball to the ground and sent it to Diego Chara at the top of the box. Chara played the ball to Jorge Perlaza. The Colombian striker took a touch and got around the defenders. Angling to the right, Perlaza sent a 9-yard shot to the bottom corner of the near post.
'Diego plays it into open space, I beat the defender and finished for a beautiful goal,' Perlaza said, through a translator.
In the second half, the Timbers continued attacking. They did not overstretch themselves, though. The defense kept their formation tight and let the match come to them. The backline was gritty and courageous. They played with reckless abandon every time the ball entered the box.
'Collectively, their last eight players did a really good job of getting around all of us and making it really difficult,' said Galaxy forward Landon Donovan. 'That being said, if we were a little better in certain spots, we could've gotten some chances. But we just weren't sharp tonight.'
In the 68th minute, the Timbers turned the match from a solid win into a blowout.
Sal Zizzo took a corner kick on the left side. He sent a perfect ball into the box. Eric Brunner had position on the Galaxy backline. He out-leaped everyone and got his head on the ball. He knocked a ferocious header into the back of the net, to the right of Saunders.
'I just made runs, and Sal hit a great ball in,' Brunner said. 'I was just trying to get into that pocket. The ball fell in there, and I got a good connection on it.'
When the final whistle sounded, the Jeld-Wen fans roared louder than they have in the history of the new stadium.
'It's a great night for (the Timbers) tonight,' Galaxy midfielder David Beckham said. 'They needed a result like this, and I'm pleased (for) John Spencer because he's a man that has great experience in the game. It was a great atmosphere but tough for us to lose." and #8232;The Timbers will have a quick turnaround going into their next match. Portland will begin the first of three consecutive road matches on Saturday against the San Jose Earthquakes.
'Now we have to enjoy it tonight and look forward to the San Jose game at the weekend with the same mentality,' Spencer said. 'You can't get up for the bigger game and drop your standard for the game you think you should win. Which, believe me, I don't think we should go down to San Jose thinking that just because of tonight we should win the game. It's going to be another tough game."
Before tomorrow comes, though, the Timbers will have plenty to enjoy. It may not have been a 'perfect game.' But, on Wednesday, the Timbers stared soccer legends Donovan and Beckham in the face and came away with a win against the best team in Major League Soccer.
"I don't know about perfect games,' Spencer said, later adding, 'I don't think there was one player on the field tonight that we couldn't say put in a fantastic performance.'