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By Fred Altieri
Sports Reporter 

LAFC battles Portland Timbers to a draw


March 10, 2022

George Laase

LAFC's Kwadwo Opoku breaks away from his defender last Sunday against Portland.

A dramatic equalizer in the waning minutes by LAFC against the visiting Portland Timbers felt like a victory at Banc of California Stadium on Sunday night. The game-tying tap-in by defender Mamadou Fall from a brilliant run and pass by forward Brian Rodriguez during second half stoppage time gave the Black and Gold a much-deserved 1-1 result.

"It's great," said Steve Cherundolo, now with one win and one draw after his first two matches as LAFC's head coach. "I love it and relish that it's a clash of two styles of football, and that it's always going to be heated. It's a great rivalry. It's great for the league. It's great for our confidence. So, I can't wait for more."

I think if we created maybe one or two more bigger chances, I think we come away today with three points, but we have to be happy with the result tonight."

Fall celebrated with his teammates after putting the ball away in front of The 3252 Supporters section in the north end of The Banc. "I think it's really important when you score to show them love the way they (fans) show love during the entire 90 minutes. I am so I'm happy."

LAFC will go on the road for the first time this season when they take on Inter Miami this Saturday, March 12, at DRV PNK Stadium. Miami is still struggling since joining Major League Soccer in 2020 when they finished a respectable 10th in the Eastern Conference with a 7-3-13 record. They finished in 11th place last season with a 12-5-17 record. Miami played to a scoreless draw in this season's home open against Chicago Fire FC. They took a virtual 5-1 beating at Austin FC last Saturday.

On paper and on the pitch, LAFC controlled the ball and dominated the Timbers in time of possession, shots, corners, crosses and passing accuracy. Yet, Portland had a 1-0 lead from the 18th minute on a short, deft bicycle kick by midfielder Yimmi Chara. It was the first goal yielded by Maxime Crepeau as LAFC's goalkeeper, who delivered a clean sheet in his debut with the club last week.

Portland used their transition and vertical game to apply pressure for the first 20 minutes of the first half, finally scoring on their fourth shot on goal, while LAFC had yet to make a shot attempt. LAFC opened the game with the formidable frontline of Carlos Vela, Cristian Arango, and Rodriguez but didn't get a shot off until Vela's serious attempt in the 33rd minute was denied on a fine save by Timbers goalkeeper Aljaz Ivacic. The match became more physical as Portland's defensive stance contributed to them receiving three yellow cards in the final minutes of the first half.

Adding to LAFC's concern was Vela being substituted by Kwadwo Opoku beginning the second half. The move was a precautionary measure given Vela's injury concerns over the previous two seasons. Cherundolo felt Vela's condition wasn't serious and jokingly added that "Carlos always feels something." Opoku wasted little time in amping up the attack but was denied on a shot on goal in the 49th minute.

Cherundolo continued to say, "They're very successful at playing that way, very result oriented, pragmatic. They're very good at it. Compliments to Portland for defending very well. These games are always very tight against Portland. It's a very good team, very disciplined team, a team we respect very much."

LAFC increased the pace and tension with their second half barrage. They ended outshooting Portland 25-10 for the match, while completely dominating in corner kicks, 12-1; crosses by an incredible 30-1 margin; passing accuracy at 84.3 to 67.5; and time of possession, 68.5 to 31.5. But it took stoppage time to deliver the draw.

"My goal is definitely to always win, but overall it's the well-being of the team. The team has given me their confidence and I feel like I should be able to deliver on that end," said Rodriguez, who maneuvered the ball like a magician before threading a pass to Fall along the goal line in front of the net for an easy put-away. "I felt like it was my turn to step up, especially because Carlos came of. I think it was the hunger that the team had as well."

Fall was expecting the pass. "Brian, one on one, he's so good at it. I was like, okay, this is a chance that we got to go in, and I knew the ball's going to come. He's going to serve a good ball. And I was right there at the moment."

But it was the work of the team. Everybody got involved. It was just like it was cooking and served me a plate. So, you got to eat my dinner."

"In those situations, you need special players making special plays and Brian made one in the end... And he made a special play to get us on the scoreboard," said Cherundolo.

These games are always very tight against Portland. It's a very good team, very disciplined team, a team we respect very much. They're very good on the counter. It's vertical, it's simple, it's fast, and it's effective," Cherundolo continued to say.

Rodriguez added, "Portland is a good team that brings an incredible amount of intensity but our team effort helped us a lot trying to recover and get the tie. That's what drove us at the end."


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