Disappointment at the Banc

In what is likely the most disappointing loss since November last season, LAFC were knocked out of the US Open Cup. LAFC was not the best team of the field tonight and ended up paying the price, losing 1-0 to the Portland Timbers. Let’s try and break it down with a new 3252 article.

3 things that went well for LAFC

Transition defense

This game, as expected, was wide open. I called it before kickoff in my open thoughts.

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Since it was an open game, it was going to be important for LAFC to get back on defense every time they gave up the ball. They were able to accomplish it time and time again. Having Walker Zimmerman back on the backline with fresh legs was an added bonus. There was only a couple of times that Portland was able to get past everyone and have a shot on goal. Without their quick transition back, Portland would have had so many more opportunities.

The chess game that was going on during the course of the game

This was the third time these teams have played in the first 20 matches overall. While everyone, including myself, thought that it was going to be one of the most physical games of the year, it turned out to be one of the most tactical games of the season. From my point of view, it was interesting to watch how the teams were going back and forth, trying to find the key that would unlock the defense. LAFC, to their credit, tried about everything before the game was over. They tried their classic style of quick passes through the lines. When that wasn’t working they ended up trying some long balls. That didn’t work either, so they finally figured out to go down the wings and cross the ball into the box. While they never found that magical key, it was not for the lack of trying new things. 

The 3252 and LAFC fans overall

Count me as one of the people wondering how LAFC fans were going to react to losing another knockout round game at the Banc of California Stadium. In the last game that it happened, the Black & Gold faithful didn’t make the greatest impression. The horrendous chant after goal kicks came back and fans starting throwing stuff onto the field. While I will always understand fans being upset by a loss, the fans tonight were able to keep themselves together. No offensive chants were started and there was no trash thrown on the field. The 3252 got louder, which I didn’t think was possible, but their passion couldn’t bring the boys home.

2 things that need to be worked on

Passing with conviction

In the first 15 minutes of the match, LAFC was having a tough time trying to string passes together. While I can understand that not every game for the Black & Gold is going to have an over 90% passing rate, tonight’s match was tough to watch at times. From my point of view in the press box, LA looked like they were trying to finesse passes into space instead of hitting their sharp, quick passes around the field. The lack of completed passes ended up really hurting them in the final third of the field. At the end of the day, they only had a 81% passing accuracy.

Shooting the ball

Who would have guessed that the best shooting team in the United States would struggle so much to get the ball on the frame? The Timbers did a really good job of stopping LAFC of getting into the box, so LAFC kept on trying to shoot the ball from distance. Spoiler alert: it didn’t work. In the first half, LAFC had zero shots on goal. All the shots just kept on going over the bar and they weren’t close. It was the same in the second half as well. LAFC just kept on hitting the ball towards goal, but nothing would go in. Overall, the Black & Gold had one shot on target, a dismal performance in a knockout round game.

5 key moments of the match

Pablo Sisniega with an amazing save at the 30th minute

While the game was open in the first 20 minutes, it really started to slow down, allowing Portland to control more possession and attack LAFC more. On one of their first corners of the game, Portland was able to whip the ball into the box and it started to ping around. It finally landed at the feet of Larrys Mabiala, who took a hard shot. Sisniega though saw it the whole way and made the full Superman save. Sisniega was able to push the ball out for another corner kick. 

Oh yeah, Sisniega with another amazing save at the 32nd minute

And on the next corner, Portland and Mabiala had another beautiful shot on goal. Another corner whipped into the box and Mabiala had an open header. He hit right to Sisniega who was able to push the ball over the crossbar. LAFC was playing poor defense, but their keeper bailed them out both times. 

Jordan Harvey with a goal-saving slide at 72 minutes

The rest of the first half was boring. As was the majority of the second half. But both teams were figuring out where each other's weaknesses. Portland was open down the wings and LAFC was giving up long balls over the top of their defense. Portland finally got a ball over the top to Jorge Moreira, who then passed it to the danger man, Brian Fernandez. Fernandez had a great shot at getting the ball on net, but Harvey made an incredible play to slide in front of the ball to block the shot. It’s hard to tell if Sisniega would have saved it, but every time a defender can save a shot, it’s a good block. 

Diomande not seeing Vela running down the left side of the field

What might have been the most egregious error of the night, Adama Diomande didn’t find Carlos Vela for a sure goal. LAFC was fighting tooth and nail to get in front of the Timbers as the clock was getting close to 90 minutes. Diomande made a great run with the ball down the middle of the pitch and ended up with three Portland players around him. He tried to get the shot off but failed and Portland turned and counter up the field. What Diomande ended up missing though was a free run of Vela on his left hand side. If he would have picked up his head for a second, he would have seen Vela and LAFC would have had an amazing chance to go up a goal and likely make the semifinals. 

Portland’s winner at the 84th minute

The tension was starting to rise in the Banc of California stadium. Everyone knew what was at stake. The game was getting really open and Portland was finding so much space. Right after Diomande missed Vela running down the side and was disposed of, Portland made the counterattack and someone finally got the ball into the net. Jeremy Ebobisse only had one option and that was to hit the perfect shot over Sisniega’s sprawled arms. It would prove to be the dagger that ended LAFC’s run in the US Open Cup.  

2 key players of the game

Pablo Sisniega

Sisniega might not be from this planet. If it wasn’t for Sisniega, LAFC would have lost this game 3-0 or worse. His two amazing saves in the first half kept the Black & Gold in the game and he was in the right position for the Portland goal. Jeremy Ebobisse just had a better shot and got the angle right. There will be articles later about who should be starting between the posts soon, but today, Sisniega showed why he should be a part of the conversation.

Jeremy Ebobisse

In a knockout round game that came down to only one goal, you have to give some honors to the player. Ebobisse was pretty quiet all game, but when he needed to hit the perfect shot, he did. Portland goes onto the next round and will be favored to hoist the Lamar Hunt trophy. 

It’s a shame that LAFC no longer has the chance to win the treble this season. Regardless, the season is not over. They are playing in less than 40 hours in Houston to hopefully grow their lead at the top of the table. LAFC are in prime position to take the Supporters Shield, which in turn will give them home field advantage for the entire MLS Cup playoffs. While today is a major bummer, it’s not the end of the world.

Andrew DoranComment