It's a rare rematch of sorts, as LAFC face the Portland Timbers four days after a 0-0 draw between the two sides on Sunday at Banc of California Stadium. The stakes this time around are different though. A spot in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals is on the line, as opposed to three points.
Here are the Toyota Keys to the Match for the Open Cup quarterfinal between LAFC and Portland on Wednesday:
Work Inside To Outside
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is what I imagine the Timbers are probably thinking heading into this match. On Sunday, they frustrated an LAFC team that had been averaging 3.3 goals scored in its last three home matches. In fact, it was the first 0-0 scoreline in Banc of California Stadium's history. Using the blueprint from their 1-1 draw at Atlanta, the Timbers fielded a five-man backline and kept the midfield condensed with three central midfielders. As a result, LAFC had little to no space through the middle of the park.
Portland are likely to employ the same strategy come Wednesday. But LAFC did find some pockets of space just wide of that line of three central midfielders.
In the second half, Lee Nguyen increasingly took up a starting position to the left of the Timbers midfielders. In those pockets of space, Nguyen drove inside to lure the backline and midfielders before playing to LAFC's wide attackers or an overlapping fullback. It was one of the few movements that disrupted Portland's lines in the match. On Wednesday, executing a similar tactic could lead to opportunities.
Crank Up The Press
The afternoon start time on Sunday didn't do either side any favors. But for LAFC, it really negated a weapon that could have come in handing against the Timbers' shell.
Luckily for the Black & Gold, the 7:30pm kickoff on Wednesday will mean lower temperatures and should result in a faster tempo on the pitch. LAFC should use this to their advantage. Once possession is lost, get at the Timbers players, especially in their half. Breaking up plays further up the pitch will keep Portland from settling into their tight lines.
Make The Set Pieces Count
On Sunday, LAFC had an 11 to 2 advantage on corners. At training on Tuesday, Bob Bradley admitted they only really created one good chance from those 11. When you have a team like Portland that is more than content to sit back, in fact, they relish it, you need a breakthrough to force their hand and open up the match. The Timbers are going to give up set pieces because of their deep defending, and they happen to be pretty good at defending them, so the routines have to be inch-perfect. And when guys like Walker Zimmerman, Laurent Ciman, or Adama Diomande find themselves in that sliver of space created, they need to attack the delivery knowing this might be the best opportunity of what will likely be another tight match.