LAFC vs Portland Timbers: Preview
On Saturday night, LAFC travel up north to Portland as they face the Timbers in Providence Park’s grand re-opening with kick-off scheduled for 7:30 PM. This will mark the second and final meeting of the season between the two sides until a potential playoff matchup with the Black & Gold defeating the Timbers in Week 2 by a score line of 4-1 at Banc of California Stadium. LAFC will look to extend their seven-game unbeaten streak by spoiling Portland’s “homecoming party” as the highest-scoring offense led by Carlos Vela look to add to their astonishing 36 goal tally. As for the Timbers, they have four wins over their last six games with only one loss. In what was a disastrous start to their season where they accumulated five defeats in their first six games, Giovanni Savarese’s team has regained its confidence. With newly added striker Brian Fernandez (3 goals in 2 games in MLS), Portland are excited to play in front of their home fans for the first time this season and will seek revenge against top-seeded LAFC for their defeat back in March.
Although the Timbers are currently out of a playoff spot as they sit in 10th place of the Western Conference, the numbers in this growing rivalry do not matter as much as the intensity and energy both teams come out with. It’s a game of its own.
There is not much we can take way from the match that was played earlier in the season between both sides because there are different circumstances, different players, different confidence levels and a different setting. Providence Park has a turf field and history itself does not favor the Black & Gold in that surface as the ball rolls differently than on natural grass. However, it will be the first time for both teams to play on the newly-added turf so there shouldn’t be much of an advantage for Portland.
The Timbers are much-improved defensively over their past six games as their backline has only allowed six goals in that time period as opposed to the 17 goals they conceded in the first six games of the season. Also, Portland has not allowed multiple goals in a single match during that time span. Diego Chara and Christian Paredes have formed a great partnership in the middle of the field as their defensive efforts will be much needed against the offensive power of LAFC. Now that the Timbers have completed the trio of Argentine DP’s in Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco and Brian Fernandez, the counter-attack strategy of Savarese will be in full display on Saturday evening.
Dumb It Down
In terms of ball possession, LAFC are one of the most dominating teams in MLS. That in much part is thanks to the midfield trident of Eduard Atuesta, Mark-Anthony Kaye and Latif Blessing holding it down and creating opportunities for attackers up the field. Portland will come out flying in the first minutes of the match filled with excitement and energy as they will look to get the crowd involved early. LAFC need to take advantage of that excitement and maintain possession of the ball though the likes of Atuesta and Kaye, therefore taking the fans out of the game. With Steven Beitashour out due to injury for the second consecutive match, Tristan Blackmon will make another start at the right-back position in what will be the biggest challenge of his young MLS career.
The Gold Cup is just a few weeks away and LAFC will be losing a few players due to international duty. Walker Zimmerman, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Peter-Lee Vassell and Christian Ramirez will potentially be playing their final game before joining their respective national teams. Depending on their team does, these players could miss up to three league games in late June/ early July. This may serve as an extra motivation for these players to leave their team in the best possible position in the standings by playing their best football vs Portland.
No matter how you look at it, this game will be one of the toughest challenges for LAFC all season long. Although an away game, there are several hundreds of LAFC supporters making the trip to Portland as they look to make their presence felt at Providence Park and hopefully ignite an extra boost of energy to the players on the pitch. It will not be an easy game to win but the way both teams play their style, LAFC are in control of their destiny as it will come down to what has been haunting them all season: finishing their chances.