LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Giovanni Savarese had a notable Major League Soccer debut in 1996 as he became the first player to ever score against the Los Angeles Galaxy.
His MLS coaching debut wasn't nearly as memorable.
Savarese's Portland Timbers conceded two goals in a poor first half Sunday and were unable to dig their way out of the hole in the second half as they opened their 2018 MLS season with a 2-1 road loss to the Galaxy in front of 25,462 fans at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.
"Not the result that I wanted," Savarese said. "I'm sure it's not the result that we all in Portland wanted, but I think we saw a lot of good from the team and a lot of energy and we have to build from here."
Savarese joined the Timbers in December after five highly successful seasons with the New York Cosmos in the North American Soccer League. He quickly won his new players over in preseason with his passion and charisma. During Portland's preseason calendar, Savarese also showed his willingness to employ different formations and make key in-game adjustments as needed.
But his team didn't look ready for the start of the MLS season in the first 45 minutes Sunday.
The Timbers were disjointed as they struggled on defense and failed to create many chances in the attack in the first half. Portland's defenders were caught sleeping on multiple occasions, gifting the Galaxy some dangerous opportunities around goal.
The Galaxy found the back of the net in the 32nd minute when an unmarked Ola Kamara chested in a headed pass from Rolf Feltscher following a cross from Jonathan dos Santos. Romain Alessandrini then extended the Galaxy's lead two minutes later after a scramble in the box. Alessandrini's initial shot went off the post, but he scored on the rebound to put the Galaxy up 2-0.
"There were times when we lost concentration, lost our marks and played a little bit more hesitant and uptight than we wanted to," Timbers goalkeeper Jake Gleeson said. "It was a little bit disappointing, but you live and you learn. It's a long season."
To his credit, Savarese found a way to inject life back into his group at halftime.
The Timbers fought their way back into the game in the 66th minute when Sebastian Blanco made a beautiful run toward goal before slotting a left-footed shot past goalkeeper David Bingham and into the net.
"(I told them) that if we believe in ourselves a little bit more and that if we move the ball faster, we're going to find space," Savarese said. "We did that and we started finding spaces and that's when the goal came."
Portland continued to create opportunities in the attack throughout the second half, but the club was unable to find the equalizer.
Timbers midfielder Diego Chara, who is recovering from a broken foot, traveled to Los Angeles with Portland, but was not in the 18 for the match. Portland has not won a game in its last 16 matches without Chara dating back to July 2015.
The Timbers will now turn their attention to Saturday's road game against the New York Red Bulls as they aim to rebound from the loss.
"I feel confident that we have the talent and the team to be able to continue to grow," Savarese said. "I saw some things that I'm content and pleased about this match that we will continue to do, but I also saw some things that we definitely have to improve."