LAFC beats Real Salt Lake and loses to Portland

Los Angeles Football Club was suddenly taking form, but they ran into a roadblock last Wednesday night when they played the Portland Timbers at Provident Park. They lost the game 2-1 in the final minutes of overtime. LAFC was riding a three-match winning streak, its longest since the summer of 2019.

LAFC knew the Portland game was going to be a fight to the finish. "They're (Portland) a team that has experience and you know that when you play them, guys like (Diego) Valeri and Diego Chara will be ready," said LAFC head coach Bob Bradley after their 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake last Saturday at the Banc of California Stadium. "These are guys that set a really strong tone with their team. So, it always means that we've got to be at our best, especially when we go to play in Portland."

LAFC has not lost to Portland in the last seven matches between the Western Conference rivals and lead the all-time series with four wins, two losses and two draws in eight matches. Last season LAFC beat the Timbers in September 4-2, before tying their last two matches, both ending in 1-1 draws.

LAFC team captain Carlos Vela is concerned with the present: "I just focus on the next game... I like to play big games and I feel this game is a big game for us. So, it's not about how many games we win in the past. It's about how ready we are for this game and how good we can do for getting three points."

Timbers forward Jeremy Ebobisse has scored the team's last three goals, which ties him with forward Dairon Asprilla for the team lead in scoring. Portland has lost two of their last three games and are currently tied for seventh place with Real Salt Lake, both with 16 points in 12 games played. However, Providence Park is always one of the toughest stadiums to get a road win, evident by Portland's 4-2-0 home record this season.

It also seemed like old times at Banc of California Stadium as the offense started to come to life, not coincidentally with a healthy Carlos Vela leading the way. On the scoreboard, last Saturday's 2-1 win was close the entire game before a packed crowd at Banc of California Stadium. On the pitch, it was a literal beatdown.

LAFC outshot Real 29-3 for the match. Vela and Diego Rossi scoring in style. Vela slammed home the winning goal late in the match. RSL goalkeeper David Ochoa was the story of the match until Vela's blistering shot off a tight angle in the 79th minute in front of The 3252 Supporters amplifying the north bleachers, complete with rainbow-colored celebration smoke.

"Every goal is important, every goal is beautiful at the moment, the way you put it in," said Vela. "And in this case, having missed a penalty kick after failing several times, to give the win to the team, being able to put it in was something very important for me. It gave me a lot of peace of mind, a lot of confidence. And I'm left with that. It was an important goal, more than because of the beautiful or the ugly, but because it gave us the three points."

Vela's second of the season was made possible by defender Moon-Hwan Kim's laser-guided assist delivered from the opposite side of the pitch. Rossi had given the Black & Gold the early lead in the 10th minute off a beautiful give-and-go with midfielder Jose Cifuentes. Salt Lake defender Aaron Herrera equalized eight minutes later taking a transition advantage with assists going to Everton Luiz and Damir Kreilach.

"I thought that was a very good team effort," said LAFC head coach Bob Bradley during last Tuesday's media Zoom conference. "Our overall way of pushing up the field, especially in the second half, got really good games from a number of players. The fluidity of the team and attack defense, those were things that we thought were done in a really good way."

There is a litany of reasons the team is gathering momentum. Different ideas of attack, creating advantages, moving forward in the right moments, good defending to initiate attacking moments, and winning the ball in good positions. Bradley added: "And so you see those things come together in a strong way and then that's you know that leads to a game where we felt good about the way we pushed things. We started really well the tempo with the ball was excellent."

Notable is that Vela has played 90 minutes in each of the club's last three victories. Vela's only noticeable miscue in the match was having his penalty kick attempt blocked by Ochoa, who correctly anticipated Vela's shot to the bottom right corner. Vela, now healthy and determined to return to his MVP form in 2019 when he set the league record for scoring will again draw plenty of attention from the rest of league.

"His ability to get in the good spots, especially on his left foot and finishes, is what separates Carlos," said Bradley. "And I think it helps us that we have different ways that we can use him. So, it's not easy for opponents to know exactly where he's going to be and how we are going to arrange our team on the day."

Vela continued to say, "The truth is that I've already played the last two games without pain, being able to enjoy playing again and not think about the injury. And that's important. It shows when it comes to having more confidence in my movements, in my plays, in changing my rhythm, in everything that defines me. There are no excuses. I no longer have pain. So, it's all about playing well and helping the team to win."

LAFC will play three home games in a row starting with game against Vancouver on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. On Wednesday, July 28 they take on Minnesota at 7:30 p.m. and Wednesday, August 4 they will play Sporting KC at 7:30 p.m. LAFC is 6-3-5.


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