Nobody at Jeld-Wen Field will forget Saturday night.
The indelibility started in the 3rd minute, as Kalif Alhassan found Kris Boyd near post on a brilliant cross, which the Timbers designated player redirected home.
The Timbers, however, couldn’t establish any sort of control in the midfield, and the Galaxy made them pay in the 19th minute, as David Beckham – given acres of space by Eric Alexander – bent a magnificent ball from 35 yards out into goal.
Portland would make way for some Beckham magnificence again five minutes later, as a poorly constructed wall allowed Beckham to unleash his signature curling free kick and tuck it inside the near post.
The Timbers dug themselves a deeper hole two minutes later when Kosuke Kimura lost Michael Stephens on a throw. Stephens, however, took a poor touch that was bouncing hopelessly away from him, but Kimura bailed him out – and enticed Baldomero Toledo into making a half-brained call – by colliding with Stephens in the box.
And if that weren’t enough, just two minutes later, David Horst would lose Landon Donovan on the right wing, where he would send an easy cross to Robbie Keane to do what he has made a career out of.
Just like that, ten surreal minutes after Portland had a 1-0 lead, they were down 4-1.
The Timbers would make noises of a comeback in the 34th minute, after Josh Saunders bobbled Boyd’s direct free kick and Kimura erased his earlier mistake by putting the rebound home.
In the 36th minute, Horst nearly pulled the Timbers within one with a well-placed header off of a Steven Smith corner, but Saunders atoned for his previous sin by making a solid diving save.
The Galaxy would deliver the fatal blow in the 64th minute, however, as Beckham caught the Timbers defense upfield in finding Sean Franklin on the right wing. Franklin easily found Keane in the box, who casually slotted home.
The Timbers, however, couldn’t let this one out of their teeth just yet. Five minutes later, in the least surprising free kick strategy since Beckham’s in the 24th minute, Kris Boyd took a set piece off of Jack Jewsbury’s tap and drove it into the bottom corner.
What the Timbers had in pluck, however, they lacked in gas, as the comeback effort sputtered and stalled in the late stages. It was a strange night to cap off a strange week that deals a significant blow to the Timbers’ increasingly longshot playoff chances.
- I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a unit as desperately disorganized as the Timbers’ central midfield was in the first half and, to a lesser extent, the second half. If Jack Jewsbury and Lovel Palmer ever patrol the center together again, it should result in an automatic sacking for the manager. Two disasters in a row. Their inability to slow down the Galaxy attack to any extent hung the back four out to dry. If Keane and Donovan are coming at you with a full head of steam, your defense is in serious trouble. Not that they acquitted themselves particularly well, either.
- Looking at the stats is absolutely maddening. The Timbers had 61% possession, 83% passing accuracy, and 571 completed passes. 15 shots, 10 of which were on frame, and 18 open play crosses. Unreal. As wretched as the defense was, the Timbers offense was as good as we have seen it all year. Although this was at least in part because the Galaxy were up big and determined to score in the double digits, the numbers are glaring enough that they can’t be ignored. In addition to the three goals scored, the Timbers had four other pretty legitimate chances to put the ball in the net.
- The difference in the game, then, was the ability to maintain composure after conceding a goal. The Galaxy did, the Timbers oh-so-very didn’t. While it’s refreshing to hear a coach take responsibility for a loss, and while I think Gavin out-thought himself tactically a little bit in this one, 4 goals conceded in 9 minutes isn’t tactics. It’s mentality, and that’s in large part on the players. They did it under Spencer and they’ve now done it under Wilkinson. And if they don’t learn how to handle being scored on, these last 16 games are going to be torture.
- Diego Chara is incredibly important to this team. Oh my goodness. For those questioning whether Chara is designated player quality, I present Saturday as Exhibit A of my argument against in support of Diego.
- The grades will be all over the map. Just a warning.
Troy Perkins, 3 – Culpable on the second concession for setting up a sloppy wall that cut off a free kick directly hit at the far post (which Beckham was never going to hit) and opening up a sizable gap for a curler (which Beckham was always going to hit). Also didn’t have his best effort on the fourth concession, where he may have been able to cut off Donovan’s cross with a better effort. At least on that one he was exposed by his defense.
Steven Smith, 3 – Conceding goals when Smith is caught upfield is becoming a bit of a pattern. Both the fourth and fifth concessions came from Smith’s left side with the Scot nowhere to be found in defense.
David Horst, 2 – Absolutely dominated by Donovan. His selection over Futty looks bad in hindsight, as Horst’s mistakes are piling up and his poor closeout of Donovan on the fourth concession gave the Timbers a mountain they couldn’t climb.
Hanyer Mosquera, 3.5 – Got crossed up on Keane’s run to the fourth goal, and botched his mark on the fifth. A couple crippling mistakes overshadow the fact that he was otherwise the most competent defender on the night.
Kosuke Kimura, 4.5 – A relatively neutral game again for Kimura. Obviously made the massive error in letting Stephens get behind him on the throw, but made up for it moments later by putting back Boyd’s free kick. Otherwise, was close to competent if unspectacular.
Jack Jewsbury, 3.5 – He and Palmer were undressed defensively, as LA moved at will through the Timbers midfield. Jewsbury at least made some contributions to the attack.
Lovel Palmer, 1 – Wretched. The kind of performance that gets a player cut. Stalled the attack and was nowhere significant to be found defensively. Paging James Marcelin.
Darlington Nagbe, 4 – Had some nice moments breaking down the Galaxy midfield, but, and I’m getting so tired of writing this, is dribbling way too much. He seemingly tried to dribble the ball into goal on his breakaway.
Eric Alexander, 4 – Bears some culpability on the first goal, as he failed to close down Beckham. There is an argument to be made that it was Palmer’s position he was being asked to defend, but still, when Palmer isn’t there he has to defend it.
Kalif Alhassan, 6.5 – A very good night returning from injury. Assisted on the Timbers’ best goal of the evening and was a threat on the right side until being pulled for fitness reasons.
Kris Boyd, 8 – Heard some griping about Boyd in the stands on Saturday. Here’s what I say to that: two goals. His seven on the season all of a sudden don’t look too bad. Any fault that goes to Boyd for the Timbers’ struggles is misplaced. He was brought in to score goals and 18 matches into the season he has seven.
Brent Richards, 3 – Down 4-2 at half, I don’t mind giving the kid a chance to see what he can do, but Brent was a little bit wide-eyed out there. Stalled the attack a few times and looked out of sorts defending on the left wing.
Danny Mwanga, 4 – Came on for Kalif and didn’t have much in the way of an impact. Kalif’s absence was conspicuous.
Sal Zizzo, INC. – Very late sub didn’t have much of a chance to make an impact.
Preseason Prediction: Galaxy 2, Timbers 1. Jewsbury, Boyens (ha!), and Keane.
Actual Result: Galaxy 5, Timbers 3. Boyd, Beckham, Beckham, Donovan, Keane, Kimura, Keane, and Boyd.
Onward, Rose City!
 The wall was reasonably aligned for somebody who likes to go directly at goal, but ill-suited to deal with the bending ball that Beckham was inevitably going to hit. Three Galaxy players saw that the Timbers’ wall was too far outside the near post, and joined to hold Beckham’s preferred flight path. Lovel Palmer recognized this problem and tried to reinforce the wall behind the Galaxy players, but didn’t have much of a chance from his vantage.
 What David Beckham is to curling free kicks, Toledo is to half-brained refereeing.
 Aided by a shove from Landon Donovan. See supra note 2.
 Things I have praised never.
 Things I have lamented always.
 Horst’s header, Nagbe’s dribblefest, the ball cleared off the line, and Jewsbury’s late strike that went just wide.
 I suspect John Spencer’s repeated refusal to do so contributed to his demise.
 Although, in his defense, two defensive center mids isn’t an unreasonable thought under normal circumstances. It is an unreasonable thought, however, when those two are Jack Jewsbury and Lovel Palmer.
 That is a very, very, very low bar.
 Mostly kidding.
 This is going to be fun.