The Portland Timbers went toe-to-toe with LAFC for nearly 65 minutes Sunday afternoon before completely falling apart.
The Timbers (0-1-1, 1 point) conceded two goals in the span of just three minutes in the second half and saw star midfielder Diego Chara sent off with a second yellow card as they fell 4-1 to LAFC (2-0-0, 6 points) at the Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles, California in their second game of the 2019 MLS season.
“It’s definitely an unfortunate result,” Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said. “I felt that we did some very good things in the first half. I thought we were the better team in the first half, but you have to capitalize in the moments that you have. They did. We didn’t.”
The Timbers have historically struggled early in the season. Since Portland entered MLS in 2011, only D.C. United and the Chicago Fire have had worse records than the Timbers in March. Portland failed to win in five-straight games on the road to open the season in 2018.
This year, the Timbers will need to find a way to win on the road in the first three months of the season as they play their first 12 games of the year away from home due to construction at Providence Park.
But the club will have to wait at least one more week to find that first win after being blown out in Los Angeles.
LAFC opened the game on the front foot and found the first goal of the match. Timbers goalkeeper Jeff Attinella made a tremendous diving stop to deny Diego Rossi from point-blank range in the 13th minute, but Los Angeles still took the lead less than a minute later.
LAFC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye held off Timbers midfielder David Guzman and headed in a corner kick from Carlos Vela in the 14th minute to give LAFC a 1-0 lead. Guzman could have easily been called for a foul for trying to bear hug Kaye, if the LAFC midfielder hadn’t scored.
The Timbers settled into the game as the first half went along and began to cause problems for LAFC, especially on the counter attack.
Portland finally broke through in the 29th minute when forward Jeremy Ebobisse made a nicely-timed run to head in a free kick from midfielder Diego Valeri and tie the game up at 1-1. Ebobisse, who claimed the starting forward role last September and was making just his ninth career MLS regular season start Sunday, is trying to solidify his spot in the lineup before the Timbers potentially bring in a pricey designated player.
But LAFC retook the lead moments before halftime.
Attinella and Timbers center back Larrys Mabiala were unable to cut off a cross from LAFC defender Jordan Harvey in first half stoppage time. The ball appeared to hit off Timbers center back Julio Cascante, who was trying to defend LAFC forward Christian Ramirez, before bouncing into the net. Ramirez was officially awarded the goal on the scoresheet as LAFC took a 2-1 lead.
“These are matches where we need to be better,” Savarese said. “We need to not concede so easily. It’s unfortunate because we had a lot of good moments, especially in the first half.”
The Timbers, who took eight shots in the game, had opportunities to find the equalizer early in the second half. Ebobisse received a pass from Sebastian Blanco behind the backline in the 56th minute, but took a poor first touch, giving LAFC defender Walker Zimmerman enough time to get back and block the 22-year-old’s shot.
It was LAFC that showed the clinical touch in front of goal in the game.
In the 65th minute, Vela sent a beautiful pass across goal for Adama Diomande, who slid in and scored to put the game away. Vela then drove into the box three minutes later and fired a shot into the net to give LAFC a 4-1 lead. Vela finished the game with a goal and three assists.
Chara was sent off with a second yellow card in the 72nd minute after appearing to flick Rossi in the ear behind the play. Chara will be suspended for next week’s game against FC Cincinnati. The Timbers have not won an MLS game in their last 22 matches without Chara, dating back to July 2015.
“This is one we have to analyze more,” Savarese said. “Before we go to Cincinnati, there’s a lot of work to be done.”
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