LAFC capitalize on an early Portland mistake to take the lead
It wasn’t quite one minute in, like the Champions League final earlier in the day, but like Liverpool LAFC were able to capitalize on an early mistake to take the lead. When the playing out from the 6-yard box, Portland goalie Jeff Attinella was trying to get a pass to his left back, but instead the ball was intercepted by Carlos Vela, who then carried the ball in and fired past Attinella for the 1-0 lead.
In a game like this where you are facing a good team in their home opener, in a notoriously hard place to play, it was huge that LAFC forced a mistake and capitalized to take a lead early on.
LAFC weathers Portland response by blocking shots
Driven on by the emotion of the night, and wanting to get back on level terms, the Portland Timbers responded after the early goal, and attacked LAFC hard in the rest of the first half. LAFC responded by holding firm, and they were able to ride out this Portland push, mostly by blocking shots before they ever got on frame. LAFC is not known for their shot blocking, mostly because they aren’t required to do it all that much. But in the first half, defenders and midfielders alike threw their bodies in front of every shot they could, either sending them away from goal entirely, or at least taking the sting out of the shots. This was key in preserving the lead before Diego Rossi added to it near the end of the first half.
LAFC made great runs into the box, and capitalized on Portland defensive mistakes
You could make the case that all three of LAFC’s goals came off defensive miscues by Portland. The latter two were less obvious then the first one, more lacking awareness of LAFC attacking runs. Still, the runs have to be made for the chances to materialize, and LAFC attackers did a great job of finding space in the box. Diego Rossi, after missing a sitter earlier in the half, lost his marker and made a great run across the box to finish a Tristan Blackmon cross for a 2-0 lead. Then, when Portland had grabbed a goal right after the restart, LAFC was able to restore their two-goal lead, as Latif Blessing split Portland’s defenders and converted Jordan Harvey’s cross to make it 3-1.
LAFC has not had a breakout season from either of their No. 9’s thus far, but they have continued to pile on the goals by getting great contributions and attacking movement by all of their frontline players, plus occasional goals from the midfield and defense. All of their attackers are talented, and if they continue to work hard and make the runs, the goals will keep coming.
Brian Fernandez scored a tremendous goal, and almost salvaged this game on his own for the Timbers
Brian Fernandez is a new addition to the Timbers, but he is having quite an impact so far. He assisted on the first goal, having a header saved that fell directly to Cristhian Paredes who converted the rebound. Portland’s second goal was something special though, Fernandez finding just enough room to score a spectacular overhead kick. It wasn’t quite a full overhead kick, but it was inventive and did the job, bringing Portland within one goal, but thankfully, not getting an equalizer.
These teams don’t like each other, and they are likely to play more chippy games
There has been a lot of animosity built up between these teams in LAFC’s short time in the league so far. Much of it stems from that U.S. Open Cup game last season, Portland claiming LAFC fielded an ineligible player. Then Adama Diomande said a Timbers player had racially abused him during the match. The Timbers issued a fiery and tone deaf response, and the fact that U.S. Soccer did not find enough evidence to prove a charged was satisfying to neither team. This all boiled over at the end of the match. Carlos Vela was hit was some hard fouls by Sebastian Blanco and Julio Cascante, and then there was an altercation where Diomande shoved Cascante down after he got into it with Mark-Anthony Kaye. Then a couple of players had their arms around Dio’s neck as the scrum was going on. And at the end of the game the assistant coaches for each team had some choice words for each other. That will do nothing but raise the temperature in this budding rivalry, and look for more fireworks if these teams meet again in the Open Cup or MLS Playoffs this year.
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