In the first meeting between the two teams since LAFC’s 3-2 victory over Portland in a U.S. Open Cup match back in July, LAFC were able to play their game and run through the defending Western Conference champions, perhaps foreshadowing future success.
LAFC’s first scoring chance came in the 10th minute when Mark-Anthony Kaye intercepted a Portland clearance attempt at the top of their box. He quickly chipped it over Portland’s back line towards a streaking Christian Ramirez, but it was just out of Ramirez’s reach. Trying to get a touch on the ball before it flew past him out of bounds, Ramirez flailed at the speeding pass but ended up redirecting it out of bounds over the net.
The black jerseys came back just three minutes later with an attack down the right side, spearheaded by Carlos Vela. Vela laid it off to the overlapping Steven Beitashour, who crossed it across the ground. Diego Rossi one-timed the shot on net, but it was strongly saved by Portland goalkeeper, Jeff Attinella.
LAFC capitalized on the following corner in the 14th minute when Kaye drifted back from the six yard line and headed home Vela’s cross for his first goal since suffering a season-ending broken ankle last year.
Eduard Atuesta received the first booking of the match in the 17th minute after he took down an attacking Diego Chara.
After some unimpactful back and forth play, Portland produced its first scoring threat in the 25th minute when a Sebastian Blanco ripped a shot from the top of the box, which was headed out for a corner by Eddie Segura before it reached goalkeeper Tyler Miller. The Timbers’ corner swung in towards the top of LAFC’s six yard line where the ball was caught by Miller in traffic.
However, LAFC’s early lead would not last, as just four minutes later, Lee Nguyen fouled Portland’s Diego Valeri about ten yards outside the box. Valeri took the kick with a cross, and Jeremy Ebobisse headed it home to tie the match.
To throw another wrench into LAFC’s plans, Beitashour was subbed off in the 32nd minute for Latif Blessing due to injury. Beitashour had suffered a blow to the head defending his own box before either team scored.
Blessing, now slotted in at the unconventional right back position, was promptly fouled hard by Diego Chara on his first touch. Then, in the 37th minute, Blessing chased down a streaking Valeri and fouled him just outside the right side of LAFC’s box. After the LAFC substitution was given a yellow card, Valeri struck the free kick that curled right to Miller, who promptly punched it away to safety.
LAFC were able to control possession for much of the last eight minutes of the half, and it paid off right before halftime.
In the 45th minute, Vela dribbled from the middle third of the field towards the left side of the attacking third. He laid off a distressed pass to the overlapping Harvey, who crossed in a low ball from the left side of the box. Harvey’s pass could not have been more accurate, as it squeaked past a diving Attinella and sliding defenseman Larrys Mabiala before Ramirez’s sliding right foot redirected it into the net for his first goal of 2019.
LAFC dominated most of the early and late parts of the first half. Though Portland seemed to find some footing midway through the first half, LAFC’s 55 percent of possession to Portland’s 45 was the difference between a 1-1 halftime and Los Angeles’s one-goal lead. All three goals were perfect products of each team controlling pace and build-up.
The second half started in LAFC’s favor, beginning with Diego Rossi in the 47th minute when he drew a foul at midfield off of Zarek Valentin worthy of Portland’s second yellow card.
The next ten minutes saw both teams fighting for extended possession, and it finally culminated with each team finding a scoring opportunity in the 57th minute.
Kaye lofted a pass towards Vela from midfield, who then beat Chara to the ball. It came down to Vela’s feet on the left side of the six yard box, but ripped his shot across the box and just wide right.
Soon after, Sebastian Blanco similarly received a pass from midfield just outside LAFC’s box, cut back inside to shake off Segura, and laid it off to an open Ebobisse on the left side. Ebobisse looked to have a clear lane at a shot on goal just outside the six yard box, but Walker Zimmerman tracked back in time to get a foot on the shot, redirecting it out for Portland’s fourth corner.
Like last Sunday, head coach Bob Bradley replaced Ramirez with Adama Diomande after about 60 minutes of playing time for Ramirez. This was the first time Diomande faced Portland since last year’s U.S. Open Cup, after which Diomande accused a Portland player of calling him the ‘N’ word on the pitch.
Diomande did not waste any time letting Portland know where his mind was at. In the 65th minute, just two minutes after Diomande came on, Blessing found Vela wide right of the box, who then crossed a ball that scooted past a diving Attinella. Much like Ramirez’s goal to end the first half, Diomande buried his second goal in two games with a sliding effort to go up 3-1 with just 25 minutes remaining.
At this point, Banc of California stadium was a ruckus, and LAFC seemed to feed off the increased support as they continued to pressure Portland even with a two goal cushion.
After Diego Rossi’s shot was saved by the right foot of Attinella in the 68th minute, Los Angeles won Attinella’s clearance at midfield. Diomande immediately turned and sent Vela on a wide-open run down the right side, who then skillfully and carefully placed a curling shot in the far bottom corner for his first goal of the season after assisting on the first three goals of the game. Diomande ended up winning man of the match for his goal and assist.
The three-goal lead must have bred frustration for Portland. As LAFC was breaking into the attacking third yet again, Diego Chara gave Rossi a tap on the face from behind, and was then shown a second yellow card by the referee.
In a matter of six minutes, Portland had gone from a one-goal deficit to trailing by three goals and down a man to finish the last twenty minutes of the match.
By the 80th minute, LAFC had gained a 57:43 advantage in possession, doubled Portland’s shot attempts 16 to 8, and perhaps most indicative of success, had tripled Portland’s attempts on goal (6 to 2).
The 3252 kept on cheering through the last ten minutes of the match, reveling in their team’s dominance over a team that made the MLS Finals just last season.
The final whistle sounded after just two minutes of extra time, and LAFC became just the third team in the league with two wins after the first two weeks of the season (Seattle, Minnesota). Next Sunday, LAFC will face its first road challenge, as they will take on New York City FC, who began its season with two draws. With so few teams off to a perfect start like LAFC, Week Three is a massive opportunity to create a cushion in the table that can help LAFC down the line.
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