Los Angeles, CA – For the third match of their fifth season, LAFC hosted what some call their “greatest rival” in the Portland Timbers for a late, Fifty-five degree Sunday evening match-up. What nobody expected was the diverting styles and aggressive play which were on full display.
Portland’s Yimmi Chara stunned the crowd early, by corralling a ricocheted ball with an acrobatic bicycle kick for the match’s opening score.
On the over end, Portland’s defense smothered LAFC mightily, holding the club to zero shots on goal for the first twenty-seven minutes of play. The stifling defense dropped back and held firm in the box, preventing clear passing lanes and stagnant possessions for LAFC.
The clearest chance of the half came in the thirty-third minute when forward Carlos Vela fired a clean look from outside the box, which was swatted away by a diving Aljaž Ivačič. After a first half that included multiple turnovers and three yellow cards called on Portland, LAFC trotted into the locker room seemingly devoid of any emotional luster.
Prior to the second half tip, it was announced that Vela would not return, Head Coach Steve Cherundolo would later note as “Precautionary we’re still accessing what exactly what it is but doesn’t seem severe.” Without Vela, the other two members of the “Big 3”, Cristian Arango and Brian Rodriguez led the way.
Arango began the second half on an offensive tear by weaving through the Portland defense, which ultimately coaxed out the chippier side from the Timbers. In the 62nd minute, Arango forced Claudio Bravo into grabbing his arm and impeding his path, leading to Bravo’s second yellow card and ejection. LAFC took advantage of Portland playing one man down and began chipping away at the once-stifling defense.
Seven total yellow cards on the Timbers granted five minutes of stoppage time to tie the match. In the third minute of stoppage time, midfielder Brian Rodriguez weaved into the box and crossed to Mamadou “Mbacke” Fall for the game-tying score. Rodriguez beat his defender and found an open Fall, who tapped it into the corner of the net. Portland held possession for the final moments of stoppage time, ending the match in a draw of 1.
Leaving a cold, Sunday evening in Los Angeles with a tie from a match featuring 7 penalties and missing your captain for all of the second half, I call that a win. Yet, the insecurities surrounding the health of their stars are cause for concern. The club sits at third in their division with thirty-one more games to play. It’s too early to make any judgments, but LAFC and its fans have high hopes for the clubs’ fifth season of existence.