Been to my fair share of parties that went exactly like that Portland-LAFC match.
Couple of near fights, plenty of party fouls, a whole lot of noise, a few epic moments, and then a last-minute escape at the very end. You know, the usual stuff when you crash a get-together on someone else's turf.
Portland probably wished they had a different guest list. It wasn't the party they imagined at all. The Timbers reopened Providence Park's shiny, new doors and LAFC blew them off their hinges.
- POR 2-3 LAFC
But the hosts weren't going to sit quietly and be outdone by their guests. Portland managed to steal back some of the limelight as the party reached its peak. Unfortunately, LAFC slipped out the back to the afterparty with three points in hand.
Here are the takeaways from LAFC's 3-2 win in Portland:
Thanks For The Welcome Gift
Carlos Vela doesn't need your gifts. But if you're going to force them on him, he's not going to say no either.
Jeff Attinela with the gaffe of the night less than 10 minutes into the match. It was Portland wearing the green kits, so not sure how he failed to see Carlos Vela there. If you put the ball at the LAFC captain's feet with a free run at your goal, you can't expect anything other than the result that transpired.
The goal is Vela's 16th of the season. He, of course, leads all of MLS. He's now scored in five straight. And he added an assist as well to bring his total tally to 26 combined goals and assists through 16 matches. Vela is on pace to break Josef Martinez's single-season goal record and shatter Sebastian Giovinco's 2015 record of 38 combined goals and assists.
If At First You Don't Succeed...
Diego Rossi's first real contribution to this match was missing an absolute sitter. Immediately, thoughts went to if it was going to be one of those days for the Uruguayan.
Rossi had other ideas.
The 21-year-old doesn't get enough credit for his mentality. We saw it last season when he went through a bit of a slump. And he's doing it again this year.
After matching his career-worst six-match goalless drought, Rossi has found the net twice in the last four matches. His goal against Portland was simply determination and striker's smarts.
Many a player would have given up on this play. Rossi stays alive by running off the shoulder of the ball-watching defender and he does it with enough pace and purpose to nip in at the last moment. That's a gritty goal and absolutely the type of thing Bob Bradley will love to see from his young Designated Player.
Portland Makes Its Push
LAFC nearly ran away with this match in the first 45 minutes. It really should have been more than a two-goal lead at the break.
But you knew the way the Timbers were
fouling refusing to go quietly, that they'd turn it up a notch in the second half. They did so by pushing higher up the pitch. Instead of looking for transition opportunities by enticing the opposition forward, the Timbers forced the issue and LAFC was caught off guard.
The first goal comes as LAFC fluff their lines playing out of the back and Portland get three runners in the box.
On the front foot, the Timbers gave no quarter to LAFC in its own half. Diego Valeri and Sebastian Blanco were given more freedom to come into central areas. Eddie Segura and Walker Zimmerman weren't able to step out to break up play as easily as they did in the first half. While the central midfielders weren't as tidy as they should have been moving the ball up the field.
It allowed Portland to push wave after wave forward as they went for broke. LAFC was pinned back at times with Blanco, Valeri, and Brian Fernández providing the thrust centrally and the Timbers fullbacks getting forward to add width and whip in dangerous crosses.
The Game Changers
Latif Blessing had company tonight.
No doubt, he was a game changer tonight. Blessing scored his second goal in as many games. It was a goal that proved to be the game-winner. And it's also been a nice addition to Blessing's midfield game.
For the second week in a row, Blessing has perfectly timed a late run and been rewarded with an easy finish. With Christian Ramirez occupying the heart of the Timbers defense, Blessing is smart to recognize a huge pocket of space and Jordan Harvey provides the dime right on cue.
But Blessing's game-winner was made possible by the saves of Tyler Miller. Here's just one of his three in about a 15-minute span that kept LAFC ahead:
Miller was recently called-up to the U.S. Men's National Team friendly against Jamaica. As a final test before the Gold Cup, Miller is making a strong case he should be included for his first tournament with the USMNT.
Mind If I Bring A Few Friends?
And by a few, I mean 750 or so of my closest buddies.
Some probably said the turnout in San Jose was a fluke. Or that's its just a little drive up the coast.
The Black & Gold invasion of Portland proves all that wrong.
Looks like LAFC Away Days are here to stay. Coming to an MLS stadium near you in 2019.
You'll hear them. Trust me.