• Tuesday Jul 08, 2014

    Portland looks to gel ahead of CCL

    The play of left-back Jorge Villafaña (pictured) has been a bright spot for the Portland Timbers, a 2014/15 CONCACAF Champions League qualifier. (Photo: Craig Mitchelldyer)

    PORTLAND, Oregon -- For once, it was the Portland Timbers making an opponent claw its way back to save itself a point.  On Friday, the 2014/15 CONCACAF Champions League qualifier went ahead 2-1, before a Rauwshan McKenzie own-goal gave the host LA Galaxy an 86th minute equalizer.  The sides now sit even at 21 points each, just outside of a Western Conference playoff place.

    Unsurprisingly, the Timbers' back line continued to be the primary story.  Jorge Villafaña’s play remained solid as the left back was involved in both Portland goals.  He delivered a curling cross in the 67th minute that ultimately resulted in a Diego Valeri strike.  Three minutes later, the 24-year-old recorded his first goal of the season off a deflection.

    “We are really happy that we got at least a result here,” said Villafaña.  “We wanted the three points but we didn’t get them, but we are happy.”

    Despite Villafaña's efforts, concern lingers about the center of the Portland defense.  Shifting personnel has caused a lack of cohesion and, at times, uncertainty.

    This was perhaps best characterized by LA's equalizer, when Danny O'Rourke and Michael Harrington -- who have both been in and out of the lineup due to injury and rotation -- moved out of sync on a right-to-left play that resulted in McKenzie’s own-goal. 

    All being said, things have looked different for Portland, although very slowly.  From an outside glance, it would be hard to notice.  Rodney Wallace’s recent return from a long-term injury and the start-then-sub nature of Gaston Fernandez's year have contributed to a slight hitch in the offense.

    As Wallace re-acclimates and head coach Caleb Porter settles on Fernandez's role, Portland is aiming to take off once again.  Also, defender Liam Ridgewell – a recent signing -- is slated to be available for the team sometime next week.

    “We are going to try and work on what we need and try to build on this,” commented the optimistic Villafaña.

    For now, it seems as though it's not talent that's keeping the Timbers from engaging fully in the playoff race, but consistency. 

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