Culver City Observer -

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By Fred Altieri
Sports Reporter 

LA Football Looks to Repeat Victory Over Portland


George Lasse

LAFC defender Tristan Blackmon, right strips the ball from Montreal attacker Maxi Urruti in the LAFC's 4-2 win over Montreal last Friday at home. The LAFC remains in first place.

With a solid hold on MLS's 2019 Supporters' Shield for best record, LAFC take their 10-1-4 record and 34 points to Portland, as the Timbers re-open their newly renovated Providence Park. An anticipated capacity crowd of 25,218 for the grand re-opening this Saturday, June 1, is already being touted as a marquis matchup between the two Western Conference clubs.

It will be the first home game of the season for the Timbers as they played their first 12 matches on the road. The team had to wait for the stadium's upgrades and 4,000-seat expansion to be completed. The $85 million improvement includes new video displays, an improved sound system, LED lighting, and new turf (unfortunately the artificial kind).

LAFC celebrated MLS's Soccer For All promotion with Pride Night last Friday, May 24, in grand style as they steamrolled the Montreal Impact, 4-2. The match was virtually over by halftime as LAFC rolled to a 3-0 insurmountable lead. A late second-half defensive lapse allowed Montreal to finish with some respectability.

"Very good first half. I didn't like the way we finished the game at all," said LAFC head coach Bob Bradley. "To talk about the first half, I thought the energy was good. I think we still found some good ways to go forward, and we scored some good goals."

"In the end of the game, we've had such a good way this year. We've not given up goals late. We've had good concentration. We've played until the end of matches, and today we didn't."

This Friday, LAFC would like to repeat its 4-1 trouncing in March earlier this season over Portland at Banc of California Stadium. Portland tied the game midway through the first half but couldn't weather the Black and Gold's multiple attacks as four LAFC players found the back of the net. The teams played each other three times in 2018, LAFC's inaugural season.

Portland beat LAFC, 2-1, in the very first meeting ever between the clubs at Providence Park last May 2018 while the stadium was undergoing its early phases of reconstruction. The teams fought to a scoreless, 0-0, draw at BOCS in their second MLS matchup on Sunday, July 15 before LAFC beat the Timbers, 3-2, in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup.

The Timbers are beginning to recover from an abysmal start: one draw and five straight losses to open up the 2019 season. They have won four of their last six and drawn one match. Their 3-1 victory at Philadelphia Union last Saturday was highlighted by a couple of goals by recently acquired forward, Brian Fernandez. He now has three goals in his first two games with the club.

Currently in tenth place with a 4-6-2 record and 14 points, things are looking up for Portland. Jeremy Ebobisse leads the team in scoring with four goals, Fernandez has three along with Diego Valeri. With Fernandez likely staying at the striker position and Ebobisse playing more on the wing, the Timbers attack seems to have elevated itself to the next level. Portland also have the luxury of playing 17 of its last 22 games of the MLS regular season at home.

LAFC entertained a sold-out Banc of California Stadium on Friday night with a relentless first half attack against Montreal. Forward Christian Ramirez stunned the Impact in the 7th minute when goalkeeper Evan Bush attempted to clear the ball out of the back. Ramirez deflected the Bush's kick back into the Montreal goal for a 1-0 lead. The 3252 fan supporters union responded with a rainbow-colored explosion that jump-started the party for the rest of the night.

Who else but Carlos Vela nailed the insurance goal for 2-0 lead in the 28th minute. It was Vela's league-leading 15th goal of the season in the team's first 15 games. He wasn't finished as he added an assist in each of LAFC's next two goals for a 4-0 lead, also giving him a league-leading nine assists for the season.

Vela: “I just tried to make it difficult. I saw that the ball that got played into him was bouncing and it got stuck underneath him. I took a chance and I got rewarded for it.”

Latif Blessing scored his first goal of the season in the 31st minute as Diego Rossi also assisted. Tristan Blackmon, playing in his second game of the season, also added his first goal of the season in the 55th minute.

Blackmon: “Carlos hooked a fantastic ball in and I was in the right place at the right time. I’m thankful I got my head on it and to see it go in the back of the net.”

Montreal scored its first goal of the game in the 70th minute when LAFC defender Eddie Segura scored an own goal off a deflection from Impact Max Urruti’s crossing pass. Saphir Taider converted a penalty kick for Montreal in the 84th minute. The loss dropped Montreal into a tie for third place in the Eastern Conference, four points shy of leader, D.C. United.

Against a rejuvenated Portland Timbers squad, LAFC hopes to receive more support from the bench and tighten up its late-match defense, an Achilles heel last season when the team squandered numerous leads. To LAFC’s credit, it has yet to blow a second half lead this season.

“I wasn’t happy with our subs tonight. I don’t think when they came on the field that they helped and brought what we needed,” said Bradley. “At the end of the game, the choice and timing of passes, to play the type of football that we want, the pass has to go to the right guy at the right time.”

The End


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