LAFC scores late to beat Portland Timbers 2-1
For the second season in a row, the Portland Timbers and their supporters had to watch an opponent celebrate a championship on the Providence Park turf.
A stoppage-time goal from Denis Bouanga that sent Los Angeles FC to a Supporters Shield-clinching 2-1 win over the Timbers on a summer-like October afternoon Sunday, Oct. 2.
The result leaves Portland's playoff fate up to the final match of the season, Oct. 9 at Real Salt Lake. A win or a draw there gets the Timbers in, a loss ends their 2022 season. Their chances of playing again at home in 2022 are slim after Sunday's result.
LAFC, 51st minute — Carlos Vela curls home a left-footed shot from outside the right corner of the penalty area, placing the ball in the upper left corner. A pass from Kellyn Acosta set up the chance and Portland didn't close down Vela quick enough.
Timbers, 81st minute — Dairon Asprilla found space between defenders and headed home a cross from the left wing delivered by Claudio Bravo. Asprilla's ninth goal of the season ties him with Jaroslaw Niezgoda for the team lead.
LAFC, 90+5 — Denis Bouanga scores the winner on a transition chance. Dribbling into the penalty area, he got Dario Zuparic off balance, avoided a recovery attempt by Diego Chara and took a low shot that deflected into the goal off of a recovering Bill Tuiloma.
Big picture: The Timbers showed their usual grit to find a tying goal late, but didn't have the firepower to outscore the top team in Major League Soccer. Portland's 11-9-13 record keeps them in sixth place with one match left. A win or a draw on Oct. 9 at Real Salt Lake puts Portland in the playoffs, but the margin of error is gone.
Ultimately, if Portland doesn't qualify, it won't be because of the way Sunday ended — it will be because its poor start to the season was too much to overcome.
Bravo's afternoon: Left back Claudio Bravo was among the more active players on the pitch, and also one of the most impactful. His cross delivered with pace found Asprilla in front for the Portland goal, and he was a problem going forward throughout the match. But, he gave Vela the opportunity to shoot with his preferred left foot on the first LAFC goal and was caught upfield and fortunate not to be called for a penalty kick foul and/or given a red card for denying a scoring opportunity in the 87th minute.
Bigger picture, the combination of Bravo (who leads MLS in successful tackles) on the left and Juan Mosquera (who made his Providence Park debut Sunday and had a strong debut) on the right gives Portland two talented young outside backs. Outside back has been a r evolving position for much of this club's MLS history, but it is a place the Timbers look strong for the near future.
Lineup decisions: Giovanni Savarese kept several usual starters on the bench — Sebastian Blanco didn't enter until the 86th minute, Eryk Williamson and Yimmi Chara in the 74th. The coach explained that he wanted to keep some firepower in reserve to match LAFC's world-class substitutions, the likes of Gareth Bale and Cristian Tello, who entered in the 85th minute and helped LAFC push for the late winner. Of course, if any of those three Timbers was at full fitness, they likely are in the starting lineup for such a critical contest.
Second-half surge: Portland and LAFC are two teams that do most of their scoring in the second half, and that was the case Sunday on the hot fake grass at Providence Park. The match opened up quite a bit in the second 45 minutes and each team had chances denied by the opposing goalkeeper.
Ivacic big again: Portland goalkeeper Aljaz Ivacic — who was honored as the supporters' player of the year — came up big just before halftime when Kellyn Acosta had a close range chip opportunity Ivacic was able to swat from trouble with his left hand. Earlier in the half, Bravo saved Ivacic by heading an open shot from Carols Vela from the goal mouth. Ivacic finished with five saves, including one on a Tello close-range chance with the score 1-1.
Cherundolo celebrates: As a former Portland Pilots defender, first-year LAFC coach Steve Cherundolo said on the ABC telecast, while nodding toward Clive Charles' name on the Timbers Ring of Honor, that if his team couldn't clinch the shield at home, Portland was the next best place to celebrate. Sunday's win was LAFC's 21st of the season, a MLS record for first-year head coach.
Decision Day: All of the Western Conference matches kick off at 2 p.m. PT next Sunday. While there is some jockeying for positions up the table, the focus will be on Portland's match at RSL and Vancouver's visit to Minnesota which will determine the sixth and seventh playoff teams. Timbers defender Dario Zuparic will be suspended for the RSL match for yellow-card accumulation.
Next Timbers match: Portland at Real Salt Lake, 2 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 9 (FOX 12 Plus).
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