The Los Angeles Galaxy might be cursed after remaining winless through three MLS games. They drew an emotional home opener 1-1 against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday, March 18 against a backdrop of supporter unrest. The match itself had an injury to goalkeeper Jonathan Bond, a disallowed first-half goal, and a game-winning Dejan Joveljić goal chalked off for a phantom handball. The results mean LA has two points from an available nine, for their worst start since 2009 (if you aren’t counting the MLS is Back Tournament). Luckily, this LA Galaxy vs. Portland match happens at exactly the right time for Los Angeles.
Recent form against the Timbers can give Galaxy fans hope of at least a result in this match. After a lopsided away loss to Atlanta United, Portland travels back home. Normally, home-field advantage is a fortress for any team, but the Galaxy has won recent matches both home and away against PTFC. Additionally, Portland isn’t having its best moment on defense, so the Galaxy can get a win with the right game plan. If Head Coach Greg Vanney gets his tactics and lineup right for this match, they can steal their first win of the season.
LA Galaxy vs. Portland Timbers Predictions
— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) March 21, 2023
LA Galaxy’s Current Run of Form
After a humiliating 3-1 loss vs. FCD and an uninspired draw, the Galaxy certainly looked better at times against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Winger Tyler Boyd’s inclusion in the lineup led to early chances that should have put the Galaxy up early. Only a brilliant save by the Vancouver keeper Yohei Takaoka denied them. They conceded off an early set piece, but a Kelvin Leerdam goal right before halftime leveled the scores 1-1 and left them poised for the win.
In fact, it was a game they should have won 2-1 thanks to Joveljić’s strike which was incorrectly ruled out. Referee Victor Rivas clearly got it wrong, and it cost LA three points and a first win on the season. It leaves them in 12th place in the Western Conference and a negative goal difference. Worse still, it denied Los Angeles being able to supply the balm needed to soothe some of the emotional wounds their supporters have been carrying against them.
Dodgy Decision Denies Galaxy
Vanney pointed to Rivas’ failure to make the right call due to him not being in sight of the play.
“Ultimately, the game comes down to one play. It really does. And the play was a non-handball. I just don’t understand for the life of me how the referee, who is 25 yards behind the play, and directly behind the attacker, sees handball. Because even when you watch it on replay, it’s not a handball. And you have all the angles in the world, potentially, in VAR. Let them make the call if it’s a handball. You’re guessing from 25 yards behind,” Vanney said in a post match press conference.
“I watched it back. To me, it doesn’t look like a handball at all. But once he makes the call, it changes everything. And, so, it’s a big guess by him. It impacts the game. And, we could have played better. We had some good moments. But, football games come down to plays. They come down to moments. And that was a big moment in the game.”
Now LA has to shake off the disappointment of a night that was an emotional battlefield on and off the pitch. They’ll need to if they are to get their first win of the season on the road at Providence Park. And they’ll need to do it without Joveljić, who’ll be on international duty with Serbia.
Read More: 2023 NWSL Season Preview
Portland’s Current Run of Form
A 5-1 mauling is hard to shake. Portland will need to do just that when they play host to the Galaxy, however. Neither side has played its best soccer, but the Galaxy has at least been defensively sound in its last two matches. Portland by comparison has conceded 10 goals in the last three games. They also have key injuries to important players like Sebastian Blanco, Dairon Asprilla, and Christian Paredes, who were all out against Atlanta. This makes an outright win against LA a heavy ask. A 4-1 preseason win against the Galaxy will give Portland heart for the fight though.
The Galaxy has had all the joy in this fixture recently. LA has either won or tied the last four matches. A 1-1 draw in June of last year, followed a 3-1 Galaxy away victory earlier in 2022. As mentioned above, Portland did beat the Galaxy convincingly in preseason, but the regular season is an altogether different animal. The last time these two faced each other in league play, Joveljić scored for LA, while a currently-injured Yimmi Chara had the goal for the home side.
LA Galaxy vs. Portland Prediction
The Galaxy has a great opportunity here. Are key players missing for Portland? Check. Is Portland’s defense leaking goals? Check. Is the Galaxy in better form than Portland? Check.
The Galaxy seems to be approaching the crest of the mountain. Galaxy fans should see right back Lucas Calegari for the first time this weekend, with Julian Aude incoming. Their defense looks set after Jalen Neal and Martin Cáceres have struck up a fantastic understanding. The attack is starting to click after exploiting wider areas well through Boyd and Leedam. And they might even get Captain Javier “Chicharito” Hernández back.
With Joveljić out, if Chicha can’t go, it might mean a first MLS start for Preston Judd. The Galaxy II product isn’t goal-shy, however. If he gets a chance, look for Judd to take it.
Like Judd, The Galaxy will rise above in Portland, get their first win of MLS play 2-1, and break the early season curse they have hanging over them.
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