If the Galaxy hope to qualify for next month’s MLS playoffs, they’re going to have to pick up the pace. Because with a month left in the regular season the team is stuck at the bottom of the Western Conference, four points out of the eighth and final postseason spot.
And they did nothing to close that gap Wednesday, with Felipe Mora and Jeremy Ebobisse each scoring twice to lift the visiting Portland Timbers to a wild 6-3 victory that extended the Galaxy’s winless streak to six. Diego Valeri and Larrys Mabiala also had goals for Portland while Julian Araujo, Ethan Zubak and Cristian Pavón scored for the Galaxy.
The three Galaxy goals were one more than the team had scored in their previous five games combined, which counts as progress. But they also allowed six goals for the second time this season and have lost five straight. That’s not progress.
Asked if this the low point of the season for his team, Galaxy coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto, who now finds himself on the hot seat, had a one-word answer.
“Yes,” he said glumly.
“But maybe it’s not the moment to analyze right now,” he added. “We need to keep working. It’s a moment to work and face up and then fight to get the next three points.
“Today we got three goals and we lost.”
Added midfielder Sacha Kljestan: “We’ve got to find a way to claw ourselves out of the hole that we’re in. We’ve kind of lost our way a bit. We need to find out way back.
“If we win one game, I know we can go on a winning streak game again.”
The Galaxy tried to get that done Wednesday without defender Rolf Feltscher and midfielder Jonathan dos Santos, who were away on international duty, and forward Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, at home with his wife who gave birth earlier this week. In their places Schelotto moved teenager Julian Araujo to right back and used Ethan Zubak up front — and both moves paid off with goals.
Araujo’s score, his first in MLS, came on a 25-yard strike in the 34th minute, halving a 2-0 deficit and waking a team that seemed to be a step behind the Timbers for most of the first half. Including Araujo’s goal, the Galaxy took the final six shots of the half and appeared to go into the locker room with momentum.
But Valeri wrestled that back by scoring less than two minutes after intermission. And though Zubak’s goal, his second in MLS, came eight minutes later and halved another two-goal deficit, that was as close as the Galaxy would get.
“We got punished by a good team. You have to give credit to Portland for putting six into the back of the net,” Kljestan said.
“Every time we got ourselves back into the game, they put another goal in the back of the net.”
Mora opened the scoring for Portland in the 14h minute, taking a feed from Yimmi Chará on the edge of the penalty area and redirecting it in for his fifth goal of the season. Ebobisse doubled the Portland advantage, lining a free kick into the top left corner from about 19 yards before Araujo got the Galaxy on the board, running on to a loose ball in space, taking two touches, then skipping a long right-footed shot inside the left post on a bounce.
Valeri and Zubak then traded scores, with Zubak nodding in a Pavón cross to make it 3-2, before Portland (8-4-3) put the game away, scoring four times on five second-half shots.
“There was many too mistakes from us in the back,” defender Daniel Steres said.
“We can take some lessons from this and move forward. We need to get it right. We can’t waste any time trying to get it right anymore.”
The Galaxy’s final bright spot came in the 70th minute, when Pavón scored, ending a five-game goalless streak, his longest since coming to MLS. It was also his first game with a goal and assist in more than a month.
He leads the Galaxy in both categories with seven goals and six assists.
Although the Galaxy (4-8-3) have been stuck in neutral for the last five weeks their remaining schedule, while exhausting, offers them a path back into the race for a playoff berth. The team will play eight times in the final 29 days of the regular season but just three of those games will be against teams that currently have a winning record.
And half the remaining games will be at home. Saturday’s scheduled match at Colorado could upset those plans, however. A COVID-19 outbreak has forced Colorado to postpone its last three games, including Wednesday’s match with LAFC. If Saturday’s match is also postponed, the Galaxy could find themselves playing four times in one week to make it up.
“We have eight games left and still have aspirations to make the playoffs,” Schelotto said in Spanish. “As a coach I’m not here to call out the players. It falls on me to fix what needs to be fixed.”