Photo courtesy Stephanie Romero / LA Galaxy II
CARSON, Calif. – Down two goals in the first 15 minutes, and by three at the halftime break, there was a sense of disappointment for Portland Timbers 2 Head Coach Andrew Gregor on Saturday night, although not necessarily for the reason you’d think.
“It was disappointing because I thought we were actually doing quite well,” said Gregor after the game.
T2 had yet to record a shot on goal at the break, though, and when Ariel Lassiter’s second goal of the night in first-half stoppage time, the Galaxy II seemed set to return to the top of the Western Conference standings. Instead, Portland became the first team to rally from a three-goal halftime deficit in the USL since the Pittsburgh Riverhounds on May 30, 2015 as Villjan Bijev led a 4-3 victory at the StubHub Center Track & Field Stadium.
“I couldn’t be happier with the boys,” said Gregor. “I felt like we’ve really been grinding lately. The goals haven’t been going in for us. We’ve been creating opportunities, but they’re just not going in, and it’s really nice that they got rewarded for the hard work they put in.”
The game turned fully toward T2 just before the hour-mark when Los Dos were reduced to 10 men when Adonis Amaya was sent off. Three minutes later, Blake Bodily scored his second goal of the season off new addition Augustine Williams’ first assist for the club, and the comeback was on.
Bijev then notched his first of the night from the penalty spot in the 67th minute after a handball by the Galaxy II in the area. Two goals in five minutes provided the momentum the side needed to take a firm hold on the game, and while LA goalkeeper Bennett Sneddon recorded three saves in the second half, he was unable to keep out Bijev’s second with three minutes to go as he benefitted from a good piece of play by USL 20 Under 20 selection Victor Arboleda and drove home a finish to make it 3-3.
“I thought Bijev was very good tonight,” said Gregor. “He was finding really good pockets in between the lines and causing them problems with good movement off the ball. He took his opportunity, which is good to see because I think he’s been a little unlucky with some opportunities. It’s really good to see him get on the board with a couple of goals and hopefully it just pushes him through and they start going in bunches.”
Three minutes later, T2 leading scorer Neco Brett completed the comeback with his fifth goal of the season. Arboleda and Bijev were again involved, with Bijev adding an assist to his earlier two goals as he played Brett in down the left. The Jamaican rookie cut past his defender, and fired a finish into the top-right corner for a thrilling win.
With the side coming off another solid result in a 1-1 draw against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC on Wednesday night, Gregor said he hoped the side would take confidence from the week as a whole and finish the season positively.
“It was a strong week for us – four points out of two games,” Gregor said. “This game was a high point for us. We’re going to have to get back to work during the week and dig back in on training and get focused. We’re going to have a tough week coming up with three games in a week. There’s points out there to be had and the guys need to make sure that we continue this momentum and push through here.”