Photo by ISIPhotos.com
BY MIKE DONOVAN
Despite being mired at the bottom of the Western Conference standings for months, Chivas USA has started to embrace their role of spoiler.
That trend continued Saturday night at the Stubhub Center, as the Goats held the playoff-contending Portland Timbers to a 1-1 draw. Bryan de la Fuente had the goal for Chivas USA, while Diego Valeri answered for Portland.
While the visiting the Timbers held a major possession edge, solid defending by Bobby Burling and company gave Portland little room to work inside the 18-yard box. The draw gives Chivas USA eight points in their last five matches, which is their best run since March.
After going into the locker room at the half down a goal, the Timbers quickly answered the bell and found the back of the net. Minutes after coming on as a halftime substitute, Valeri made his presence felt as his deflected shot left Dan Kennedy little chance to make a save. The goal was the Argentine DP’s seventh of the season to go with his 12 assists. It was the second consecutive game Valeri’s insertion into a match gave the Timbers a major boost. Unlike last week’s 4-0 victory over Toronto, Portland was unable to find a winner.
Chivas USA got on the score sheet first when midway through the first half an unmarked Carlos Borja connected with de la Fuente in the middle of three Timbers defenders. De la Fuente rose above and headed the ball off the post and in, leaving Donovan Ricketts helpless.
While Erick Torres came into the match on a tear with five goals in four matches, he struggled to find openings against the much larger Pa Modou Kah. Torres did find one chance after breaking through an offside trap, however, but he was unable to get around Ricketts in the 68th minute. Replays showed slight contact between Ricketts and Torres but referee Matthew Foerster did not blow his whistle for a penalty.
The draw drops the Timbers to fifth-place in the Western Conference standings with six games left to play. FC Dallas, Vancouver, and San Jose are all within five points of Portland as the season continues its home stretch.
Despite a recent run of form by Chivas USA, the announced attendance of the match was 5,123, which is the lowest attended match in club history.
Next up for Portland is a Friday night clash with the Rapids. A win at Jeld-Wen Field would see the Timbers leapfrog Colorado in the standings and into third place in the West.
The draw Saturday officially ends any chance that Chivas USA will make the MLS playoffs. It is the fourth consecutive season the California club has missed out on the postseason. The Goats will look to continue to spoil the hopes of other clubs when they take on the Houston Dynamo Saturday at BBVA Compass Stadium.