Most impressive MLS Round 9 win: Portland or LA Galaxy?

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Project Porter is rolling with speed in Merritt Paulson Valley. Manager Caleb Porter has the Timbers playing well and performing with the requisite aesthetic. If we take the big look at Portland Timbers matter, all of this is helping validate Paulson’s tough choice last year, to abandon ship on manager John Spencer and go a different direction.

The latest paint stroke of validation came last night in the Heartland, where Porter’s team took down Sporting Kansas City in a hard-fought, well-played 3-2 thriller.

Considering Sporting KC’s status (perched at No. 2 in our latest MLS rankings), it was a mighty impressive result. No soldier in the loyal Timbers Army would have felt badly about a draw, and Porter’s posse did one better.

On most weekends, that would rank as the result of the round.

But not long after final whistle outside Kansas City, the two-time defending champion Galaxy did their best to one-up the men from Oregon. Bruce Arena had to assemble a patchwork lineup to account not just for missing starters, but for the starting-est of starters, if you know what I mean.

When we name Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and Carlo Cudicini, you have just named three of the champs’ most important four men. Throw in Todd Dunivant, and you take away a quality left back and one of the Galaxy’s most experienced vets. Then, one of the better young starters, Jack McBean, leaves after 53 minutes injured.

Some of the replacement parts are names that even someone like me, who does this stuff for a living, know little about. I mean, Charlie Rugg? That young man played 71 minutes last night. Total time now in MLS matches all-time for Mr. Rugg. Uh, 71 minutes.

Same for young goalkeeper Brian Rowe, who also made his pro debut.

For the Galaxy young bucks to rampage to an early lead, that’s one thing. But to stay hungry, as they did, and maintain discipline, as they did, that’s mighty impressive stuff, too.

I’ll sit the fence on this one. They both rank as huge achievements.

You may think differently.