PORTLAND — The margin was a couple of feet, maybe less. But for the Portland Timbers, the result was huge.
Sunday’s 1-0 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy will be remembered for a skillful finish from Maximilliano Urruti and a gutsy — and correct — offside call in the dying minutes of the match that denied Robbie Keane a tying goal. But the significance of the result for Portland was that for the second match in a row the Timbers won a playoff-style match.
“I think it’s important for us because these are playoff games,” Jack Jewsbury said. “These last two weeks have meant a lot. So I think that prepares us well for the playoffs.”
Sunday’s win followed a similar 1-0 win over Colorado that moved third-place Portland (12 wins, 13 ties, 5 losses, 49 points) four points ahead of the fourth-place Galaxy (13-6-11). The Timbers are now eight points ahead of sixth-place Vancouver. With four games remaining, Portland is well positioned to claim one of the five Western Conference playoff spots.
Timbers coach Caleb Porter said the win is significant beyond the playoff ramifications. He noted that the Galaxy had their stars on the field and understood the importance of the contest.
“It also was a big step for this club, just moving forward, to continue to prove that we can beat anybody, ” Porter said.
Urruti, the 22-year-old Argentine in his third game with the Timbers, scored a savvy goal seven minutes into the second half. Will Johnson took Portland’s first corner kick of the game, and Urruti got to the near post and re-directed the ball into the goal with his right foot for his first MLS goal.
“He’s a finisher,” Porter said, also praising Urruti’s work in keeping pressure on the Galaxy defenders.
Rodney Wallace, whose attack from the left wing forced that corner kick, almost doubled the lead five minutes later. But Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo made a terrific reaction save on Wallace’s close-range shot.
With no margin for error, the Timbers concentrated on keeping their defense organized. The back four of Jewsbury, Pa Moudo Kah, Futty Danso and Michael Harrington, along with midfielders Diego Chara and Will Johnson, contained Keane and Landon Donovan. This is the second time this season the Timbers have blanked L.A. with the two most dangerous Galaxy players in the lineup.
“Our back four was extremely tight in managing their very talented players,” Porter said. “They had a few shots, but they didn’t have any great looks.”
In fact, Donovan did not take a shot, and Keane was credited with only one that went wide. Gyasi Zardes took the two shots from distance that Timbers goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts made saves on, and a close-range attempt by Juninho was blocked by the defense.
Still, it appeared Donovan and Keane had produced a tying goal in stoppage time. Donovan took a free kick from the right wing that Kean deftly headed inside the near post. But linesman Eric Boria raised his offside flag, ruling that Keane in an offside position when Donovan struck the ball. Replays confirmed the call was correct.
The wet weather took some of the skill and flow out of the match as players struggled to control the wet ball. But the conditions were not as bad as they would have been had the wind been stronger.
“It was choppy at times,” Porter said. “But for me it was very mature out of our guys, the way we managed it.”
TIMBERS 1, GALAXY 0
Los Angeles 0 0—0
Portland 0 1—1
Second half—1, Portland, Urruti 1 (Johnson), 52nd minute.
Goalies—Los Angeles, Jaime Penedo; Portland, Donovan Ricketts.
Yellow Cards—Sarvas, Los Angeles, 35th; Kah, Portland, 74th.
Referee—Ismail Elfath. Assistant Referees_Eric Boria. Peter Manikowski. 4th Official_Alejandro Mariscal.
Los Angeles—Jaime Penedo, Omar Gonzalez, Todd Dunivant, Kofi Opare (Laurent Courtois, 84th), Sean Franklin, Landon Donovan, Juninho (Jose Villarreal, 87th), Marcelo Sarvas, Hector Jimenez (Michael Stephens, 60th), Robbie Keane, Gyasi Zardes.
Portland—Donovan Ricketts, Michael Harrington, Mamadou Danso, Rodney Wallace, Pa-Modou Kah, Darlington Nagbe, Diego Valeri (Kalif Alhassan, 80th), Jack Jewsbury, Diego Chara, Will Johnson, Maximiliano Urruti (Ryan Johnson, 73rd).