Jeremy Ebobisse and Sebastián Blanco scored seven minutes apart midway through the second half, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez had a first-half penalty saved, and the Portland Timbers opened the MLS is Back tournament with a 2-1 win over the LA Galaxy on Monday night.
Portland surged into command of Group F in the tournament thanks to its victory and a 3-3 draw earlier on Monday between LAFC and Houston.
“This is a very important win. It’s been four months, four long months without any competition or friendly matches. Mentally was very difficult, and also physically,” Blanco said through and interpreter. “It’s very important to be able to start this way because it gives us a lot of trust, and it shows how seriously we’re taking this competition and how good we’ve been working.”
Hernandez missed on the penalty in the 12th minute as his attempt was smothered by Portland goalkeeper Steve Clark, who also saved the rebound attempt by Sasha Kljestan. Hernandez also missed an open goal early in the second half sending his shot over the crossbar.
The Mexican star finally scored his first goal for the Galaxy in the 88th minute as the Galaxy took advantage of Portland playing with just 10 men. Dario Zuparic was given a second yellow card in the 75th and the Galaxy had a pair of goals waived off for offside before Hernandez finally scored his first for LA.
The Galaxy (0-2-1) remained winless on the season after opening the year with a draw against Houston and a 1-0 home loss to Vancouver.
“The last 20 minutes, 25 minutes we were much better. We create a lot of chances,” Hernandez said. “But we weren't ruthless like we need to be.”
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The Timbers had limited chances for most of the first hour, but outworked the Galaxy defense for both goals. And both were thanks largely to Blanco’s effort.
Blanco assisted on Ebobisse’s goal in the 59th, making a smart diagonal run in the penalty area. Yimmi Chara’s initial header was saved by Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham, but LA was unable to clear the ball. Diego Valeri found Blanco on his run, and Blanco's pass was redirected into the net by Ebobisse.
“In that case, I was just working on making sure that the guy that was tight on me couldn't knock me off balance because ultimately I was so close to the goal all I needed was a redirection,” Ebobisse said. “Each game presents different opportunities and I’m glad that that one presented itself and I was able to take advantage of it.”
Just a few minutes later, Blanco hustled to keep Ebobisse’s shot from going out of bounds, worked his way past defenders Emiliano Insua and Giancarlo Gonzalez and beat Bingham with a left-footed shot.
Portland (2-1-0) began the year with a loss to Minnesota before rebounding with a win over expansion Nashville prior to the league’s shutdown in March.