Portland Timbers eliminated from U.S. Open Cup
The Portland Timbers exited the 2022 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday, May 10, in a fashion that has become frustratingly familiar.
Los Angeles FC beat visiting Portland 2-0 in the round-of-32 of the national championship tournament. Portland spent significant stretches defending in its own third of the field. But the Timbers outshot LAFC and created several quality chances, but for the fourth time in its last five matches failed to score a goal.
32nd minute, LAFC goal. Striker Cristian Arango flicked home a near-post chance on a recycled corner kick as Kwadwo Opoku ran into gaping space on the right side of the penalty area and found Arango for a technical flick at the near post. LAFC 1-0.
54th minute, LAFC goal. Defender Mamadou Fall stepped into a second ball off a corner kick and drove his left-footed shot from 11 yards out into the goal. LAFC 2-0.
Big picture — The way things have been going for the Timbers, a deep run in the Open Cup could have provided a confidence boost. Alas, shorthanded and after traveling from New York to LA, Portland continued to struggle in front of goal. On the plus side, given the squad's injury issues, not having to focus on both the Open Cup and on MLS competition might be best for the club's league hopes. Portland returns home Saturday for a MLS match against Sporting Kansas City.
Young Brazilian forward Nathan showed some assertiveness in moments in his debut. He didn't get a lot of touches in dangerous areas, but remained active even when his time on the ball was limited. In the 17th minute, he and Marvin Loria combined to create a chance that Loria slid right at LAFC keeper Maxime Crepeau.
The match was an opportunity for David Ayala to get 90 minutes, as well as young defenders Zac McGraw, Justin Rasmussen and Pablo Bonilla. It also was another strong performance from veteran goalkeeper David Bingham, who was credited with six saves and was the victim of lax defending on both LAFC goals.
Niezgoda's status — The big question postgame was about the status of forward Jaroslaw Niezgoda, who played 23 minutes off the bench but left with a right groin injury. Coach Giovanni Savarese said he did not yet know the severity of the injury, and that Niezgoda might have asked out as a precaution. That is certainly the hope for a club short on available forwards.
"Hopefully he can bounce back be ready for this weekend. But we have to now evaluate and see how he's feeling," Savarese said.
Defending set pieces — LAFC leads MLS in set-piece goals this season and made Portland pay for lapse defending on both goals. The first one was a nice overlap — he had acres of space to deliver his pass to the near post. On the second LAFC goal, the Timbers were flat-footed. Fall was unmarked and the only player to attack the ball when it bounced near the penalty spot.
T2 to Timbers — Three T2 players signed short-term contracts to play for the Timbers on Tuesday. Midfielder Victor Griffith started and played 66 minutes and defender Julian Bravo came on late when Niezgoda had to exit. Midfielder Dawson McCartney also signed a short-term contract, but did not play.
Upbeat coach — Savarese is often upbeat in his public comments after tough results, and the coach sounded that way after Tuesday's loss. As has often been the coach's lament of late, Savarese said his team needs to be more aggressive and decisive in the attacking phase of the game.
"A lot of good performances from new players that haven't trained enough with us," Savarese said.
"Being sometimes a little bit more aggressive in some moments (is what the Timbers attack lacked). The little parts of the game that we just have to make sure that we take advantage of is what was missing today, because we created a lot of opportunities. I mean, the guys played very well today."
Next Timbers match — Sporting Kansas City at Portland, 7 p.m. Saturday, May 14 (FOX 12 Plus).
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