Portland Rolled Past LA Football Club 4-1
March 14, 2019
LAFC’s Achilles’ heel in its successful 2018 inaugural season was the inability to finish a number of games, notably at home. The ultimate blow was a bitter first round MLS Playoff loss in Banc of California Stadium before a loyal yet stunned fan base. Two matches into the 2019 season the Black and Gold are making amends while still entertaining with their expected flair.
A second-half blitzkrieg rolled visiting Portland Timber, 4-1, compounded by a rocking “3252” fan base. Led by forward Carlos Vela, an early candidate for league MVP, strong midfield play and a cohesive back line supporting goalkeeper Tyler Miller, LAFC improved its record to 2-0, tied for first place with 6 points in the Western Conference with Seattle Sounders and Minnesota United.
“We’ve tried from the beginning to challenge players to come in every day with an open mind to be challenged,” said LAFC head coach Bob Bradley. “To be pushed, to understand how
they can become a better player, what kind of football we want to play, and how that needs to be worked on every day. The response has been great and in those ways, we just keep going.”
Vela moved deftly with lethal precision in Portland’s backfield throughout the match. He assisted on two goals, initiated the go-ahead goal just before halftime and nailed a crowd pleaser for the game’s final score. Remarkably, LAFC has responded with that finishing touch in Vela’s first two games as team captain.
Midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye put LAFC up 1-0 in the 14th minute with a quick flicking header into the back left of the net off a pinpoint corner kick by Vela. Portland scored the equalizer on a beautiful set play in the 29th minute by Timber star forward Jeremy Ebobisse’s low header past a diving Miller in goal.
LAFC regained momentum just before half, 2-1. A cross-field dribble and relay from Vela to defender Jordan Harvey set up a pass splitting Portland defender Larrys Mabiala and goalkeeper Jeff Attinella, allowing Ramirez to slide just beyond and push the ball over the goal line in the 45th minute.
“I’m trying to be the leader of the team every day and it’s my job. It’s why I come here,” stated Vela unequivocally. “Every day I try to be better, to be a better player and a better teammate. In the end, I’m working to be the MVP of the league. If I want to do that then I have to show every game how good I am.”
Enter Adama Diomande substituting for Ramirez in the 63rd minute. Two minutes later Dio scored his second goal of the season on a pass from Vela in front of the frenzied 3252 supporters for a 3-1 lead. Three minutes later Vela attacked the right side of the goal, placing a low strike into the opposite end of net for his first goal of the season. Vela efforts earned him MLS Player of the Week honors.
LAFC plays its first road game of the season and its first game ever in Yankee Stadium this Sunday against New York City Football Club. NYCFC has opened the season with two draws, a 2-2 contest at Orlando City in Week 1 before playing D.C. United to a scoreless tie at home last Sunday. They finished third in the MLS Eastern Conference last season before bowing out in the Semifinals to eventual league Champion Atlanta United FC.
NYCFC and LAFC played to a 2-2 tie at Banc of California Stadium in the only contest between the two teams in the series that started last season. Vela’s goal gave LAFC a 2-1 lead in the second half before NYCFC scored the equalizer late in the match. Both teams will again play only one match against each other this season unless they clash for the MLS Cup in November.
“We can’t get too high on ourselves. We’ve won two good games but we have things to work on,” stated Vela. “If we continue with the same mindset and ambition then I think we have a lot of potential. I believe in my team. We can do big things and hopefully we can continue at this level.”