LA Football Club Pulls Out 3-2 Win Over Portland

After sixteen regular season games Los Angeles Football Club is hovering above the rest of Major League Soccer near the halfway mark of the 2019 season. As a welcome blessing, MLS will take a brief respite for the next three weeks. The break allows teams to regroup and adjust from the depletion of rosters due to national team duties for international tournaments during June and July.

LAFC's only match until June 28 will be at Real Salt Lake on Friday, June 11, as both teams make their entry into the Fourth Round of the U.S. Open Cup with 32 other teams. Last year, LAFC advanced to the Semifinals before being ousted by the Houston Dynamo, 7-6, in an overtime penalty shootout. The Dynamo beat Philadelphia Union, 3-0, in the Final to take the 2018 Open Cup.

The temporary rest from the pitch is well-deserved for the Black and Gold. They lead the MLS Supporters' Shield race with 37 points. New York Red Bulls set the Supporters' Shield record last season with 71 points. LAFC (11-1-4) needs just 35 points in their 18 remaining games to eclipse that mark. They lead the Western Conference with cross-town rival L.A. Galaxy nine points behind in second place.

The stellar season run has been a physical affair. LAFC's grinding 3-2 win over the Portland Timbers last Saturday was a prime example. Both teams had to be separated near the end of the match due to LAFC taking issue with a number of late tackles (including spikes up) from the Timbers. More critical was forward and MVP-favorite Carlos Vela taking the brunt of the attacks.

Ultimately, Vela, Diego Rossi and Latif Blessing each delivered the blows that kept the Timbers from celebrating their highly-anticipated Providence Park re-opening. Regardless, LAFC's supporters on the road made their presence felt before a partisan crowd of 25,218.

LAFC Head coach Bob Bradley and Portland head coach Giovanni Savarese engaged in an animated discussion on the field after the match. "We're not naive, there's going to be physical games, but I don't like to see it get to the point where it got in the second half," said Bradley, taking issue with Portland's tactics.

Vela, who leads the league in both scoring with 16 goals and assists with 10, intercepted Portland goalkeeper Jeff Attinella's ill-advised pass to his left back in the 6th minute and deftly slid the ball into the net for a 1-0 lead. That prompted Portland to increase its attack on Vela as he sustained eight total fouls compared to just six total on the rest of his teammates for the match.

Vela: "We know the type of team is Portland. They have a lot of intensity. They play hard. In the end we're focusing on our football to play good, to try to win games. We're really happy with the result because we played hard, we're assertive and we go back home really, really happy."

Forward Diego Rossi further subdued the home crowd with his eighth goal of the season, a fine punch just inside the right post beyond a diving Attinella in the 34th minute, good for a 2-0 halftime lead. Bradley noted: "Even at halftime we had a bunch of guys... Jordan (Harvey) got raked early. Look, it's a tough game. That's not a complaint. But it's just got to be managed."

Contrary to the first half the Timbers offense fired away with Christian Peredes' goal cutting the lead to 2-1 45 seconds into the second half. Nine minutes later LAFC midfielder Latif Blessing scored his second goal of the season, a striking one-touch off a perfect crossing pass by Harvey for a 3-1 lead.

"When we come here we know it's a big day for them. It was a party and we say: "Okay. We go to party. Let's go and enjoy the party. So that's why we played like that. And we go a really good night. We are happy so it's a good game for us as well."

Recently acquired designate player Brian Fernandez made his presence in the 84th minute for the Timbers, a splendid bicycle kick goal past LAFC goalkeeper Tyler Miller, cutting the lead to 3-2. That gave Fernandez four goals in three games played for the Portland.

The remaining 18 minutes of the match (including roughly 11 minutes of stoppage time) were a blur. There were several more dangerous tackles on Vela as the referee struggled to maintain control. Portland's Sebastian Blanco and Fernandez were issued yellow cards as well as to LAFC's Eduard Atuesta and Adama Diomande. At one point, players had to be separated from having their hands around each other's necks.

"Once again, everything that we do is to try to have as many really good games as possible in this league. Good games include a physical element for sure, but good games," said Bradley, adamant about protecting his players and wanting to improve the league's play.

"Teams go at it where you can see there's respect, there's a mix between really good attacking play and the kind of play you see against really good attackers. You see teams with real identity in a sense of how they want to play. And I think we need as many of those games as possible."

Vela summed it up with a smile: "In the end I don't think about how hard it was. I'm happy with the victory. I enjoyed the party and I like Portland."


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