Tough draw for Timbers
A stoppage time goal from 16-year-old Christian Torres, his first in Major League Soccer, earned visiting Los Angeles FC a 1-1 draw with the Portland Timbers on Sunday, Oct. 18, at Providence Park.
Jeremy Ebobisse scored early in the second half to put Portland in position to pick up an important three points. But a late push from the visitors was rewarded and the Timbers dropped a costly two points in the Western Conference standings.
At 9-5-4 (31 points) Portland is tied with Seattle on points atop the Western Conference, though the Sounders have six games remaining and Portland only five. The rivals meet for the final time in the regular season at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.
Third-place Sporting Kansas City is one point back of Portland with five games to play.
LAFC, which was missing eight regulars including all three Designated Players on Sunday, is 7-7-4 (25 points), fourth in the Western Conference.
Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese called the result disappointing, given how close his team was to a victory. But Savarese praised the effort of his team.
He pointed to early yellow cards to defensive midfielders Diego Chara and Eryk Williamson as having a significant impact on his team's approach to a physical match that featured 29 fouls whistled by referee Allen Chapman (21 of them before halftime).
Diego Chara was shown yellow in the 12th minute for persistent infringement. Williamson was shown yellow on a play in the 29th minute when he was fouled by LAFC center back Eddie Segura. Williamson's elbow hit Segura's face as the players crumpled to the ground. After a VAR review, Chapman issued the yellow to Williamson.
Savarese called Chapman's yellow-card decisions "a little bit unbalanced."
"That influenced the match, for sure," Savarese said. "It made our game more difficult because our midfielders had to be extra cautious to make sure that they didn't arrive at a tackle at the wrong time. If they were one second late, they couldn't go for the ball. You have a yellow card from the start of the match, especially two defensive mids, you start under difficult conditions."
After being whistled for 10 fouls in the first half, Portland was only whistled for one after halftime. LAFC was called for 18 infractions.
Despite Williamson and Diego Chara needing to be less assertive in midfield, Portland was in position for a significant win. But the Timbers struggled to maintain any consistent possession during the last 20 minutes, settling more often for pushing the ball forward and hope for a counterattack chance.
The tying goal came on a quick combination at the top of the 18-yard box after LAFC won possession in midfield and quickly played the ball forward. Kwadwo Opoku, a 19-year-old Ghanaian who officially signed with LAFC Oct. 5, exhibited a wonderful spin move to set up a clean shot for Torres, whose low drive eluded the reach of Portland goalkeeper Steve Clark.
Ebobisse scored two minutes into the second half, ripping an open look from 18 yards to the right of goal into the net for his eighth goal of the season. The play started with Jorge Villafana winning possession near midfield and getting the ball to Yimmi Chara. Chara dribbled forward and sent the ball across the top of the 18-yard box to Felipe Mora, who turned and sent it to his right — with Diego Valeri smartly letting the ball go past to the open Ebobisse.
Before the late equalizer, LAFC had a good chance in the 61st minute. Clark stopped a Danny Musovski shot, then Opoku stumbled and sent the rebound wide. In the 86th minute, a header by Dejan Jakovic from a LAFC corner kick hit the cross bar.
Portland's best chance to double its lead came in the 84th minute, when LAFC goalkeeper Pablo Sisniega denied a counterattack chance for Yimmmi Chara.
Both teams had chances in a scoreless first half, with Portland forcing Sisniega to make four saves late in the half, including a couple of stops on Mora after Mora got behind the defense. On the play Mora was grabbed as he entered the box, but played through the contact.
Ebobisse was involved in a similar play early in Wednesday's match at Real Salt Lake, where Ebobisse appeared to be fouled inside the penalty area but did not fall and did not get the call.
"Our honesty in the game, trying to make sure that we don't go down as easily is maybe penalizing us," Savarese said.
For LAFC, Bradley Wright Phillips had a couple of early looks but couldn't make clean contact on either of them.
Ebobisse extended his club record to a 75th consecutive appearance across all competitions but hobbled off late in the match with what appeared to be a left leg problem. Savarese did not have an update on Ebobisse when he spoke to media after the match. Ebobisse was to be made available for the remote media session — perhaps an encouraging sign — but it was cancelled because of the time needed for his treatment session.
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