BY MIKE DONOVAN
PORTLAND, Ore.- The Portland Timbers have made many memories in their two-and-a-half MLS seasons at Jeld-Wen Field. But they had never scored a stoppage-time winner.
At least not until Saturday.
Andrew Jean-Baptiste scored his first goal of the season in the fifth minute of second-half stoppage time to give the Timbers a stunning 2-1 victory over the LA Galaxy on Saturday night.
Jean-Baptiste became the first Timber defender to score in 2013 when he headed home a Diego Valeri corner kick and sent the crowd into delirium and decide an intense match that swung back and forth all night long. Jean-Baptiste called the goal the “biggest of his career.”
“I’m proud of our guys, for, again, when the game was on the line, I thought we were really the ones pushing the game,” Timbers head coach Caleb Porter said.
The victory is Portland’s fourth straight at home and gives the Timbers a seven-game unbeaten run at Jeld-Wen Field.
“We’ve been building a fortress,” Porter said. “We’ve shown this year that we’re very difficult to play at home.”
Despite missing players such as Landon Donovan and Will Johnson due to international duty, the game felt more like a November playoff showdown than a mid-July match. In edition to the game-winner, the match was hotly-contested one that saw end-to-end action, seven yellow cards and at least on shot that clanked off the woodwork.
And the fireworks didn’t stop at the final whistle. Post-match saw Carlo Cudicini receive a yellow card and a seemingly-intense clash between Caleb Porter and Bruce Arena. Porter downplayed the incident saying “nothing happened” and that Arena is the “greatest American coach in the history of the sport.”
First half goals from LA’s Marcelo Sarvas and Portland’s Ryan Johnson saw the teams nodded up at the halftime whistle. The Galaxy got on the board first after Hector Jimenez worked his way around Michael Harrington and whipped in a perfect cross to Marcelo Sarvas. For Sarvas, it was his fourth goal of the season, while it was first goal given up by the Timbers at Jeld-Wen since in 586 minutes, the third-longest streak in MLS history.
Despite giving up the first goal for an eighth time this season, Portland seemed to brush off the early Sarvas header.
“We deal with adversity very well. That’s how we are,” Jean-Baptiste said. “We’ve been down goals numerous times and we just show character and heart and passion and come back into games that we know we can win.”
Portland answered ten minutes later when a quick restart on a free kick led to a Ryan Johnson tap-in. The goal, set up by a Darlington Nagbe pass, gives Johnson six on the season and his second in three matches. The quick free kick was part of the game plan, according to Porter.
As the second half progressed, the game to evolve into a midfield-heavy with few goal-scoring opportunities between the two sides. When there were chances in the second 45, the teams made the most of them with a combined five shots on goal in just eight shots taken. In fact, the Timbers only had one shot total in the final 28 minutes of play. But that one was the game-winner.
Both goalkeepers were kept busy by dangerous chances, with Carlo Cudicini producing a fine double save on Darlington Nagbe and Johnson, and Ricketts denying a stellar Juninho free kick. The two goalkeepers, who have a combined age of 75, had seven saves between them.
While Sarvas will be happy with his goal and was a constant threat in the midfield, he will disappointed by his play on the game-winning goal. Sarvas didn’t react as Jean-Baptiste went next to the post that Sarvas was meant to be marking.
Jimenez was a constant nuisance to the left side of the Portland defense, beating Harrington on multiple occasions. However, Jimenez did not have the same impact after the break and was subbed off 15 minutes before the end of the match.
The win puts the Timbers in second place in the Western Conference with 33 points, while LA has dropped into fourth place with 30 points. Even with the victory, Jean-Baptiste and the Timbers are looking for more.
“We want the Supporters Shield. We beat a good team today, but we’re not done. We haven’t accomplished anything. All we did was win a couple games,” Jean-Baptiste said. “Until we get a couple trophies in our cabinet, we haven’t done anything.”