MLS West Coast derby a hit

Los Angeles Galaxy forward Landon Donovan, right, fights for the ball with Portland Timbers defender Hanyer Mosquera.
AP Photo/Don Ryan
AP Photo/Don Ryan

Jeld-Wen Field in Portland, Oregon hosted one of the most exciting MLS games in the 17-year history of the league.

The 5-3 dozy that saw the Los Angeles Galaxy (8-10-2, 26 pts.) prevail over the host Portland Timbers (5-9-4, 19 pts.) last Saturday night is what the league hopes will become the norm, or at best for now, become more frequent as it sells the league and the American game to corporate America and to some of the best young players around the world.

MLS would be proud and should feel justified at its ‘designated player’ signings or marquee players – the Galaxy’s American Landon Donovan and British David Beckham and Robbie Keane and Timbers’ Chris Boyd – who helped to produce such a memorable game; this is really the sole purpose of signing the top players from around the world – to make the game high-scoring and attractive to the American fans.

Saturday night’s game did just that as the high-attendance trend in the Northeast continues; there were 20,000-plus fans at the Portland stadium to record the two-year-old MLS team’s 27th straight sell-out crowd. Just down the road in Seattle, the Sounders sport sell-out crowds of over 30,000 regularly. In Los Angeles at the Home Depot Center, where the Galaxy share the home filed with Chivas USA, sell-outs of over 25,000 are common for regular season games.

What happened at Jeld-Wen Field Saturday night was a continuation of a typically very competitive West Coast derby; Los Angles had been struggling at the bottom of the Western Conference, but recently picked up a few wins and suddenly found itself in the fifth and last playoff spot, while Portland was only four points behind the Galaxy and with two wins in its upcoming games could past Los Angeles and begin to dream of post-season play.

So, Los Angeles, on a good run, came into Portland determined to hold onto that last play-off spot; conversely, Portland was all out to make the visitors its first victim in search of those seven points needed to climb the league table. Also, Portland, just days before, fired head coach John Spencer and was coached by its general manager, Gavin Wilkinson; with a vocal sell-out crowd piled into Jeld-Wen Field equipped with actual timbers for all to see, the stage was set for an extremely competitive derby.

The Portland fans were riled when the Timbers, playing well and moving the ball around effectively, took the lead through Boyd in the third minute. The Timbers’ high-priced and high-scoring Boyd was signed at the start of this season after a stellar career in the Scottish Premier League, where he scored 62 goals in 296 games for Glasgow Rangers, but the surging Galaxy had a high-priced, high-scoring trio of its own. It was GAME ON!

Englishman Beckham answered with two goals in a 15-minute span with his signature right-footed curling shots, the first came as he was unmarked from about 30 yards and the other from a 24-yard free kick, for a 2-1 Galaxy lead in the 24th minute; Donovan scored a penalty (27th minute) for a 3-1 advantage to the visitors, then produced his first of two crosses for assists as Irish international Keane made it 4-1 in the 28th minute. Timbers defender Kosume Kimura latched on to a rebounded shot from a free kick to close the gap for Portland at 4-2 at half time.

The excitement didn’t let up as Keane produced his second goal from a second Donovan cross to take the Galaxy tally to five on the night. Boyd ended this exciting game with his second goal of the contest from a 24-yard free kick in the 75th minute.

The Galaxy-Timbers derby is what MLS hopes will permeate the league as expansions looms in New York, New Orleans, Atlanta and Tampa Bay. In the MLS – it’s GAME ON!

In other matches last Saturday, Gillette Stadium and the New England Revolution hosted Toronto FC, but the home site wasn’t a factor as Toronto FC won, 1-0, on a goal by Luis Siva (8th ). In Toyota Park, hosts Chicago Fire squeaked past the Vancouver Whitecaps, 1-0, from a goal by former Mexican international Pavel Pardo. At PPL Park, Philadelphia Union topped Montreal Impact, 2-1, on goals by Lionard Pajoy (82) and Keon Daniel (89); Carlos Valdes scored for Montreal (90). Eastern Conference leader Sporting Kansas City (11-5-3, 36 pts.) traveled to the Columbus Crew (6-7-4, 22pts.) and beat the host, 2-1.

Out west, Colorado Rapids traveled to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park to meet hosts FC Dallas, which came away with a 2-1 victory; Omar Cummings (50th) put the visitors ahead, but late goals by Carlos Rodriguez (60th) and Fabian Castillo (81st) gave the home side victory.

Buck Shaw Stadium, home of Western Conference leader San Jose Earthquakes and league-leading scorer Chris Wondolowski (17 goals), was the scene that resembled a massacre. The Earthquakes racked up five goals to embarrass Real Salt Lake. Wondolowski ( 19th, 72nd, 80th) scored a hat trick, while Alan Gordon (63rd) and Simon Dawkins (79) added strikes.

In games last Sunday, Sebastian Le Toux in his first game for the host New York Red Bulls after his trade from Vancouver for Jamaican international Dane Richards, equalized at 1-1 for the home side in the 24th minute after Alvaro Fernandez (16th) had given the Seattle Sounders the lead at Red Bull Arena. Joel Lindpere put the Red Bulls ahead in the 61st minute, but second half substitute Fredy Montero (67) even the score again, at two goals apiece.

BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston hosted the Houston Dynamo and visitors DC United. The reception in Houston wasn’t warm; instead, the home team embarrassed the visitors to the tune of a 4-0 victory. The Dynamo scored throughout the game as Brad Davis (19th), Will Bruin (37th), Oscar Garcia (62nd) and Brian Ching (89th) registered tallied

Los Angeles Galaxy goalie Josh Saunders, on ground, stops a goal attempt by Portland Timbers midfielder Jack Jewsbury.
AP Photo/Don Ryan

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