The Portland Timbers left Los Angeles Wednesday night after pulling off a stunning 1-0 defeat over Los Angeles Football Club at the Banc in a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal matchup. Pablo Sisniega’s gymnastics in goal kept LAFC in the game for nearly the whole game, but Portland’s relentless attack proved to be too much to handle.
LAFC’s starting lineup returned to full strength for the first time since they faced FC Dallas on May 16th. Walker Zimmerman and Tyler Miller both returned from international duty this week, and though Miller did not get the start in net, backup Pablo Sisniega has made a legitimate case to be the No. 1 keeper in Miller’s stead over the past month.
Even with the lineup back with most of the starters back in place, LAFC seemed to experience a few chemistry issues early on. But a bit of a learning curve is expected for a group that played together for the first time in almost two months.
In perhaps the most competitive game Los Angeles had been involved in so far this year, the first 25 minutes saw plenty of back and forth play, but no team seemed to find any dire scoring opportunities until the half-hour mark.
In the 30th minute, Portland midfielder Cristhian Paredes found space carrying the ball down the middle and ripped a shot towards the near right post. Sisniega dove parallel to the ground and just got a fingertip on the shot to poke it out for Portland’s first corner.
On the following corner, Christian Ramirez was first to head the ball, but it fell to the feet of Portland’s Larrys Mabiala, who one-timed a shot on net from near the penalty spot. Sisniega again came up with a huge diving save, this time towards the left post. Sisniega knocked the shot down in front of him and followed through with a kick to knock the loose ball out for another corner before Portland could pounce on the rebound.
Sisniega came out to grab the following corner, but Portland came back in the 32nd minute with yet another corner from the left side. A cross was curled in. Mabiala again put shot on net, this time with his head. A bullet high and to the left, Sisniega was able to react in time and again get a paw on the ball to steal a goal away and give Portland their fourth corner in five minutes.
Then, in the 36th minute, Portland’s Marvin Loria got a beautiful bouncing feed from midfield. He carried the ball towards the middle from the right side, cutting off the trailing Eddie Segura. With only Sisniega to beat, he shot towards the far post, but missed wide.
At this point, LAFC held a possession advantage of 60-40. Though Los Angeles matched Portland in shots taken with five, none of them had been on goal while Sisniega had to come up with saves three times. Because of this, Portland had forced five corners to LAFC’s three.
After a minute of added time, both teams probably went into halftime feeling confident with their level of production. Though neither team found a breakthrough, the two teams combined to create a fast-paced, intense match, setting up for an exciting second half.
The second half began just like the first, but with LAFC controlling the game more with a calmer pace. Possession stayed about the same, but Los Angeles was still without a shot on goal through sixty minutes.
Segura received the game’s first yellow card in the 62nd minute for a bad foul near midfield.
Mabiala earned Portland’s first yellow card in the 66th minute after taking down Adama Diomande, who replaced Christian Ramirez at striker as LAFC’s first substitution of the night in the 64th minute.
Portland’s Jorge Moreira was shown another yellow card just two minutes later after chopping down Diego Rossi late from behind.
Adding to the carnage, Diomande came back in the 70th minute to earn a yellow card for himself for time-wasting after kicking the ball away.
Finally resuming free play, Portland came down the field on a fast break in the 72nd minute. Jordan Harvey slipped in the attacking third, giving the ball away. Portland charged down the field, eventually ending with a ball laid off for the wide open Brian Fernandez on the right side of the box. Fernandez one-timed a shot towards the far post, but Harvey hustled all the way back to make up for his giveaway, and slid just in time to block Fernandez’s shot out of bounds for a corner kick.
A minute later, Fernandez was given a little through ball into the same side of the box and again one-timed a shot. This time, it was right on Sisniega, who stood tall and gathered in the ball.
Tristan Blackmon was subbed in for Steven Beitashour at right back in the 78th minute.
Suddenly, in the 84th minute, Portland scored. Fernandez cut inside from the right side just outside the box. Harvey tracked back to poke the ball away from Fernandez, but the deflection unfortunately fell right to the feet of Portland’s Jeremy Ebobisse, who slapped the ball over the left shoulder of Sisniega, inside the right post.
LAFC came back with a push in the 89th minute. Passes from Carlos Vela, to Rossi, to Eduard Atuesta, then Diomande, and finally to Blackmon inside the box ended with Blackmon lifting a shot well over the bar for a Portland goal kick.
A minute later, Blessing was taken down just outside the top of the right side of the box, setting up Vela for a chance at equalizing going into five minutes of added time.
Vela’s shot curled over the wall but just missed the close upper corner.
In the 94th minute, Vela chipped a ball into the attacking third from the midfield circle. A pushed up Zimmerman skied to be first to the ball and headed it ahead towards the cutting Blessing. Blessing moved to field the ball near the penalty spot and seemed to get taken down with a body bump from Portland defenseman Julio Cascante, but no foul was called.
Into a sixth minute of added time, Diomande sent Rossi a through ball down the left side. Rossi chipped a cross towards the middle where Vela gave a final effort at equalizing with a bicycle kick, but the shot was blocked by Portland defender Zarek Valentin before the ball reached the net.
The final whistle was blown shortly after, sending Portland to the USOC semifinals and ending LAFC’s 2019 U.S. Open Cup campaign. While it was nice to see Los Angeles be able to return to a full strength lineup, the two months without playing with each other clearly showed. What is important is that this team does not let this defeat linger into its MLS play down the stretch in the Supporters’ Shield race and beyond, headed into the playoffs.
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