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The LA Galaxy are aiming to end an awful nine-game winless stretch against the Portland Timbers, but Greg Vanney recognizes that will not be easy coming out of an international break.
The Galaxy have not now won in more than two months, although close to two weeks since their 1-1 draw against Los Angeles FC have been spent waiting for their next shot at getting three points.
An international break saw the team split up, with several key men traveling for international duty while the rest of the squad remained behind to build towards the Portland game.
Whether that break served the Galaxy well, when they might have preferred to get back out on the pitch, is up for debate.
"It's tough to say. I'll let you know after the next couple of games whether we think it's good or bad," coach Vanney said with a smile.
Vanney did not shy away from the difficulties, explaining: "The guys who have been here have been working together and obviously working towards a gameplan and a strategy for this game. Then you throw guys into the mix on the last day.
"There's a lot of variables in this - none of them are perfect, and usually the first game back from an international break like this is far from perfect.
"You've got to get guys on the same page as quickly as possible, and you've got to execute it as well as you can. It's one of those challenges."
The Timbers are in a very different mood, winning seven of their past eight games and drawing the other.
Giovanni Savarese said: "Definitely you want to continue with the way we have done things, with this good moment that we faced. If you could continue to roll and continue to get results, it's a good thing.
"But also, this rest is important for the players, because we've been playing a lot of matches. We needed guys to recover.
"The important thing right now is that we have the same concentration, the same mentality, the same desire."
LA Galaxy - Sega Coulibaly
Coulibaly's first year in MLS has badly gone off the rails. He finished on the winning side in five of his first eight appearances for the Galaxy, but he has since played from the start in every game of their winless run. As a center-back, Coulibaly must start contributing to clean sheets to give LA's forward players a chance.
Portland Timbers - Jaroslaw Niezgoda
Portland have shared the goals around during their sensational streak, meaning Felipe Mora's involvement with the Chile national team this week should not represent as bitter a blow as it might have. After seven sub appearances, Niezgoda will hope this is his opportunity to start. He has two goals in just 20 minutes across the past three matches.
- The Galaxy ended a three-match losing streak to Portland with a 4-1 home victory on July 30. The Galaxy have just one winning streak over the Timbers in MLS, winning three straight meetings in the 2012 season.
- The Galaxy are winless in five straight home games (D3 L2) after failing to win just three of their previous 12 matches at Dignity Health Sports Park (W9 D1 L2). Including playoffs, the Galaxy have just two longer home winless runs in the club's MLS history (10 straight in April to August 2017 and eight straight in April to June 2006).
- Portland have won seven of their past eight games (D1), including the past four in a row, the first time in club history that the Timbers have won seven times in an eight-match span. Portland have won all four of their away matches in that time, the first time in club history the Timbers have won four straight regular season road matches.
- Javier Hernandez has scored 12 goals despite appearing just 16 times this season. His 0.82 non-penalty goals per 90 minutes is the best rate in MLS this season, while only Ola Kamara (1.13) surpasses him even with penalties included, among players that have played at least 500 minutes this season.
- Mora has scored five goals against the Galaxy since the start of last season, including a brace against LA on May 22. Only Gustavo Bou against CF Montreal (six) has scored more times against a single opponent since the start of the 2020 campaign.
Updated October 15, 2021