Sunday, October 18, 2020
7:00 p.m. PT
TV: YouTube TV, Estrella TV
RADIO: ESPN LA 710AM, ESPN App, KFWB 980 AM
LAFC had back-to-back wins to show for looking toward its last match Wednesday night against Vancouver Whitecaps FC, but realistically, with a short turnaround, an already depleted roster due to the international break, and injuries plaguing starters like Carlos Vela, Mark-Anthony Kaye, and Tristan Blackmon, the Club still had a mountain to climb. The Black & Gold had a tough go about in the first half, failing to register a single shot on net, but finally managed to find their footing later in the second half that proved too little too late, ultimately falling 2-1.
“It is a crazy year. You can spend all your time complaining about things, but that doesn’t get you very far,” LAFC Head Coach Bob Bradley said. “So, we have tried to focus on terms of our football and continue to develop a mentality and an ability to compete to go with the quality of the football. I think we’ve seen some good signs, but there have been some inconsistencies and all you can do is get ready for the next game.”
Get ready for next game they will, and the Black & Gold will be returning to Providence Park Sunday night preparing for another fight against one of its fiercest on-field rivals in the Portland Timbers.
This will be the seventh regular season matchup between the two Western Conference rivals and the third meeting already this season, with the season and all-time series sitting in LAFC’s favor at 1-0-1 and 3-1-2, respectively. In addition to their regular season meetings, the Club has also faced the Timbers in the last two Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinals. In 2018, LAFC held off the Timbers in a 3-2 victory to advance to the first semifinal in Club history, but the Club suffered a 1-0 defeat in 2019.
The Timbers have been surging since they fell to LAFC 4-1 on September 13, going undefeated beginning with a draw against San Jose, and five straight wins against San Jose (x2), Seattle, Vancouver and Galaxy, respectively, before falling to Real Salt Lake 2-1 in their last match. Portland currently sits in second place in the Western Conference with a record of 9-5-3 (30 pts).
The Black & Gold look to return back to Providence Park on stronger footing Sunday night. LAFC currently sits in 4th place in the Western Conference with a 7-7-3 record (24 points).
An experienced squad that has various ways to hurt opponents. Portland is dangerous in transition, possessing a number of technically skilled players centered in Diego Valeri who floats around the field and can pick teams apart with his passing ability. Additionally, the Timbers are strong in the air, a space LAFC has struggled with throughout this season.
THE YOUTH MOVEMENT
Already deep into its rotation as a result of the international break, with additional injuries not making the situation any less complicated, the Black & Gold have had to reach deep into their bench over the last couple of matches. Although the Club didn’t necessarily produce the result it wanted last match, in a major bright spot, it offered LAFC’s youth an incredible opportunity.
At 16 years, 183 days, Christian Torres was the first former LAFC Academy player to start for the first-team, and became the youngest MLS starter this season. Academy product Erik Dueñas made his MLS debut, and at 15 years, 362 days, became the third youngest player ever to appear in an MLS game only behind Alphonso Davies (15 years, 257 days), and Freddy Adu (14 years, 306 days).
Recently acquired Kwadwo "Mahala" Opoku and Bryce Duke, both 19, also saw significant minutes later in the match, and Bradley had glowing things to say. “As the game went on, I think Mahala and Erik Dueñas and Bryce Duke came on and did a good job and so those were some of the positives late in the game.”
This will likely be the last big opportunity that some of these players will have this season as the international breaks ends and LAFC’s new additions become more deeply incorporated into the rotation.
LAFC WILL WIN IF…
They can score the first goal. When the scores have been level this season the Club has struggled, and against a well-organized squad like Portland, who will sit back in a deep block and defend well if ahead, LAFC must find a way to produce early. Additionally, the Club must tighten themselves up in transition.
PORTLAND CAN WIN IF…
They can find success on the counterattack, and in the air. By nature, because of LAFC’s style of play, they concede a lot of transition chances, and if Portland can break through LAFC’s midfield it will make it a difficult night for the Club. We won’t rehash LAFC’s struggles on defensive set pieces more here, we’ll leave it at that.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
- Bob Bradley remains one win away from tying former Houston and San Jose coach and current Galaxy assistant coach Dominic Kinnear for third in all-time coaching wins.
o Bradley can surpass Kinnear with two more wins this season that will push him into third place all-time, behind just Sigi Schmid (240 wins) and Bruce Arena (217).
- Recent LAFC signees Mark Segbers (on loan from Memphis 901 FC) and Jesús David Murillo (on loan from Colombian side Deportivo Independiente Medellín) will be available for the match, will be interesting to see if they make it onto the pitch.