Carlos Vela scored his fourth goal of the season on Sunday, but it didn’t stand for the win, as Jorge Villafaña’s 90th-minute equalizer gave the Portland Timbers a share of the points in a 1-1 Decision Day draw at Banc of California Stadium.
Vela made his first start since August and went the distance, surprisingly, but LAFC once again got pegged back when they couldn’t put the game away with a couple more goals. In all, they hit the post three times, and that kept the door open for the Timbers to snatch a point.
The main changes to the XI on the day for LAFC was on the forward line, with 16-year-old Christian Torres, who scored his debut MLS goal the last time they played Portland, starting alongside Carlos Vela, in his first start since August, and Diego Rossi. Latif Blessing was in midfield again, and Kenneth Vermeer got another start in goal with Pablo Sisniega out of the squad entirely again. Bradley Wright-Phillips remained out with an unspecified personal matter.
LAFC got the lead in the 5th minute, with Latif Blessing picking off the ball just outside Portland’s box and taking a quick shot, forcing a save from Portland GK Steve Clark. Carlos Vela was wide open to clean up the rebound, and he scored his second goal in three games to put LAFC ahead.
Diego Rossi nearly got on the board in the 13th minute, as his patient dribbling along the top of the box led to a shot that clanged off the bottom of the post. With Rossi aiming to clinch the MLS Golden Boot, he had a little extra motivation to tally a goal on the day.
Vela then hit a shot off the crossbar in the 36th minute, with LAFC pushing for an insurance goal and to try and bury their opponent on the day. But the teams went into the locker room at the break with the black-and-gold up a goal.
Bob Bradley made one change at halftime, bringing on Dejan Jakovic for Jesús David Murillo.
The Timbers struggled to get shots throughout the game, but when Diego Valeri hit a sharp shot in the 80th minute, Vermeer had an outstanding save, with no rebound, to keep Portland off the board. But a minute later, Dairon Asprilla kicked Vermeer in the head when both players were going for a ball, a certainly scary play for Vermeer. After being examined, the Dutch veteran was cleared to continue. He made another key stop a few minutes later.
But Villafaña crashed the box on a counterattack in the 90th minute, and headed it past Vermeer from point-blank range, to make it 1-1.
I wish I could say it was a shock but it certainly wasn’t, LAFC have been doing this all season. We know they need a multigoal lead in games, and when they don’t have it, they are liable to drop points. They can’t afford this in the playoffs, so hopefully this serves as a wake-up call for them before the postseason begins.
LAFC will be in the playoffs, which comes in a couple weeks. We’ll know the opponent and schedule soon, but now they get a chance to rest and regroup before the business end of the season begins.
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