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Power Win in PDX: Portland Timbers 2, LAFC 3

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Vela continues his goal-per-game rate as LAFC earns its most physical victory on the year.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at Portland Timbers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Football Club recorded its second win on the season over the Timbers with a hard-fought 3-2 victory in Portland Saturday night. The first meeting between the two teams since March in Los Angeles, where LAFC earned a 4-1 win, LAFC now sits nine points clear of the second-place Galaxy at the midpoint of the MLS season.

LAFC came out with the same lineup as last week as Steven Beitashour is still out with a hamstring strain. Tristan Blackmon made his second consecutive start at right back after scoring his first career goal in last week’s 4-2 win over Montreal. Los Angeles did not lose a step.

A Portland turnover in the sixth minute put LAFC on top, 1-0. Timbers goalkeeper Jeff Attinella tried to pass the ball across the box to one of his defensemen, but Carlos Vela cut it off and had just Attinella to beat before calmly placing his league-leading 16th goal of the season in the bottom right corner.

Already down a goal on the night Providence Park reopened, the Timbers began to play with more urgency and the physicality picked up. After 25 minutes, seven hard fouls were whistled between the two teams, three of which were committed by Portland’s Diego Chara.

While LAFC was the better team to start, Portland did manage to edge out the possession battle at 52 percent and take four shots, though they were all blocked before testing Tyler Miller.

Despite Portland’s push, LAFC continued to make the most of their opportunities. In the 29th minute, on a 4-on-2 fast break, Diego Rossi lifted a wide open shot from just outside the six-yard box over the bar. Knowing he should have at least put it on frame, Rossi turned around with his head down and the frustration mounting during this cold streak after starting the season so hot.

But redemption came three minutes later. Blackmon beat his man down the right flank and sent a grounded cross through the box. Rossi, supporting the attack down the left side, cut across the Portland defender marking him, beat him to the rolling ball, and buried his eighth goal on the season. After starting the season with six goals in as many matches, this was just Rossi’s second goal in the last ten.

Portland’s Larrys Mabiala earned the game’s first yellow card after taking down Vela hard from behind. It would have been surprising to go into halftime without any cards issued to either team, especially considering how physical the game started and that five cards, including a red, were issued in the first meeting between these teams.

By halftime, the tide had turned completely to LAFC’s favor with 12 shots to Portland’s seven and taking back an edge in the possession battle at 51 percent. The Timbers, however, would quickly turn it around.

Just seconds into the second half, Portland crossed a ball into the box. Portland’s Brian Fernandez headed the cross on goal. Miller blocked it away with his chest, but Cristhian Paredes was right there for the rebound and volleyed the bouncing ball past Miller.

The Timbers came back the next minute looking to tie the game. Fernandez turned at midfield and began sprinting downfield with Eddie Segura trying to catch up. Right as Segura was about to stick a foot in, Fernandez took his shot from just inside the box, but Miller held his ground and securely dove down to his right before gobbling up the loose rebound.

Perhaps sensing Portland’s newfound sense of urgency, LAFC came back with a goal of their own in the 54th minute. Latif Blessing lofted a pass to the feet of Jordan Harvey who was supporting on the left wing. Blessing began to make a secondary run into the box, and Harvey picked him out. Unmarked, Blessing nailed home his second goal on the season to put Los Angeles up 3-1. Though Blessing has seldom produced goals in 14 games started this season, it was his second in the last two games.

Again with a two goal cushion, Miller continued to step up to make another highlight save after Blessing’s goal. Diego Valeri found space for himself outside the box. He cut inside and bent a shot towards the far post, but Miller just got a tip on the bouncing shot with a dive to safely send it out for Portland’s seventh corner.

The Timbers earned a second yellow card in the 58th minute when Bill Tuiloma took down Vela from behind. Brief medical attention was brought to both players who bumped heads as a result of Tuiloma’s tackle. Tuiloma was subbed off before play resumed.

LAFC made their first substitution in the 70th minute, bringing on Adama Diomande in place of Christian Ramirez again.

Throughout the half, Portland did not quit and kept fighting for an opportunity to come back. And the opportunity came in the last five minutes after Fernandez put away the Timbers’ second goal.

A cross from the left side was lifted into the box in the 85th minute. Jeremy Ebobisse was first to the ball and headed a pass towards the six-yard box. Before the ball came down, Fernandez flipped and buried the second goal with an impressive bicycle kick. Still, the Timbers continued to play with persistence.

Sebastian Blanco was shown Portland’s third yellow card in the 85th minute after committing another foul that took down Vela from behind. And with eight minutes of extra time added, the win was far from secured for Los Angeles.

Just three minutes into extra time, a scuffle between the two teams started at midfield on the sideline. Diomande ran in and pushed a Portland player to the ground who had gotten into the face of Mark-Anthony Kaye. Three Portland players responded by holding Diomande by his neck, most notably Fernandez. After VAR, Diomande and Fernandez were each shown a yellow card.

Finally, in the 100th minute of regulation, the game was whistled over.

Saturday was not the same easy job that Los Angeles turned in on March 10th. From the first whistle, it was evident that Portland remembered that loss and wanted to gain an edge by raising the physicality. To play through the most physical team they have played so far this season was a good benchmark for LAFC to end on with four weeks until their next MLS match.

Though they have a break from MLS play, LAFC will have the next ten days to prepare for their fourth round match in the U.S. Open Cup against Real Salt Lake in Utah on June 11.

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