Jose Cifuentes Kicking Ball Portland Defender LAFC vs POR 200913 IMG

Black & Gold Endgame | LAFC 1-1 Portland Timbers 11/8/20

LAFC 1-1 PORTLAND TIMBERS

MLS Regular Season – Game #22

Nov. 8, 2020

 

The long and winding road of the 2020 MLS Regular Season came to an end on Sunday at Banc of California Stadium, with the playoff-bound Portland Timbers and LAFC facing off for the fourth time this year with playoff seeding at stake. After LAFC took the early lead on a goal by Carlos Vela, Portland evened the score in the final minute, and the 1-1 tie means the Black & Gold finished the regular season in 7th place in the points-per-game standings and will face off on the road against Seattle in the first round of the MLS Cup Playoffs (date and time still to be determined).

LAFC’s Diego Rossi failed to score vs. the Timbers, even though he hit the post twice, but the 22-year-old Uruguayan striker still managed to make history – becoming the youngest player to ever win the MLS Golden Boot as the league’s leading scorer with 14 goals one year after Vela won the honor. It is the first time in league history that teammates have won the Golden Boot in consecutive years.

Starting yet another different starting lineup, this one featuring the return of 2019 MLS MVP Vela, his first game starting since Aug. 22 when he suffered a knee injury vs. the Galaxy, LAFC dominated possession throughout the early going.

The Black & Gold took the lead in the 5th minute after Latif Blessing jumped on a miscue about 40 yards from goal and fired a shot on Timbers goalkeeper Steve Clark. Clark made the initial diving save, but the rebound bounced out to a crashing Vela on the right side of the net, who coolly slotted in the shot for his 4th goal of the season to give LAFC a 1-0 lead.

It was the 22nd goal for Vela in his last 22 regular season appearances at Banc of California Stadium.

Diego Rossi, the 2020 MLS Golden Boot winner for leading the league in scoring, nearly added to his league-leading total of 14 in the 12th minute when he hit the left post, and Vela cracked a shot with his right foot off the crossbar in the 36th minute.

LAFC had several more pointblank chances in the second half when Rossi hit the post again in the 53rd minute and Brian Rodríguez powered a volley from 10 yards out directly to the goalkeeper, which led to a quick Timbers counterattack as they tied the game on a header from Jorge Villafaña in the final minutes.

“I’m angry we gave up a goal late,” LAFC head coach Bob Bradley said. “I think we had some good moments in the game, a good start. We had a number of chances to get the second goal.”

 

ROSSI GOLDEN BOOT

From the very start of the 2020 season, Diego Rossi has been stepping up for LAFC. All the way back in February, it was Rossi who scored the historic game-winning goal in the first round of the Concacaf Champions League vs. Mexico’s Club León, propelling the Black & Gold into the second round of that tournament after one of the biggest wins in Club history.

And now, at 22-years-old, Rossi is the youngest Golden Boot winner in MLS history, and he clinched the award with a career-high .737 goals per-game average.

“I’m very happy for Diego to win the Golden Boot,” Bradley said. “We talked about his maturity this year, so that’s something he has earned.”

And he never really stopped producing, even when the season resumed in July after shutting down for nearly three months due to the pandemic. LAFC head coach Bob Bradley was effusive in his praise of Rossi as he returned to the training pitch in incredible shape fueled from daily workouts with Pancho Ginella and fellow Uruguyan UFC standout Gaston Reyno.

“Since the start of the pandemic, I made it a point to be mentally strong,” Rossi said. “I also made sure to be in shape and ready to play, especially since we didn’t know when we would begin playing again. It was always that positive mentality to continue working hard throughout the year.”

With Carlos Vela missing the MLS Is Back Tournament to be with his pregnant wife, Rossi stepped up and led the team in scoring, winning the Golden Boot of the tournament. It was a precursor of what was to come the rest of the season, with Rossi continuing to mature into the league’s most dangerous goalscorer as the season continued and Vela missed more time with an injury.

“It’s obviously a great feeling to win the trophy,” Rossi said. “It’s an accolade for the entire group because without them it would be impossible. With Carlos out, I think that showed how strong of a team we have and the options that are on the roster.”

The development of Rossi is clear, as the second player signed by LAFC and the Club’s second Designated Player followed in Vela’s footsteps to become the first teammates to clinch the Golden Boot in consecutive seasons.

 

VELA STARTS IT OUT

The 2019 MLS MVP started and played 90 minutes for LAFC on Nov. 8, it was the first time he had played 90 minutes since March 8 in a 3-3 tie vs. Philadelphia. Vela scored his 4th goal of the season in the 5th minute, and has now scored a goal in the last 10 matches that he has played 90 minutes. The last time Vela played 90 minutes and did not score was Aug. 3, 2019.

“It was good for Carlos to play 90 minutes,” Bradley said. “That wasn’t the plan. It was not a really high-tempo game, so physically both of those guys were able to do okay.”

It was the 22nd goal for Vela in his last 22 regular season appearances at Banc of California Stadium.

“When Carlos is there, when as many guys as possible are fit, sharp and good form, we still believe that we have a team that can win MLS Cup,” Bradley said. “As we get to this time of the year, we think we are getting closer.”

 

HIGH-SCORING BLACK & GOLD

For the second year in a row, the Black & Gold led MLS in scoring. LAFC scored a league-leading 47 goals in 22 games in 2020, after registering a MLS record 85 goals in 34 games in 2019.

In 2020, LAFC’s 2.14 goals-per-game average finishes the season as the seventh-most in league history. Last year, the Black & Gold averaged 2.5 goals per game.

 

RETURN OF THE MAK

Mark-Anthony Kaye returned to the field tonight for LAFC, coming on for José Cifuentes in the 88th minute.

It was the first action for Kaye since Oct. 11 when he played only six minutes vs. Seattle and suffered a severely sprained right ankle. The Canadian international has been staying in shape and is ready to return for the Playoffs.

 

SHORTHANDED FOR PLAYOFFS

With a first round playoff matchup on tap vs. Seattle, LAFC is going to find themselves shorthanded once more in 2020. MLS leading-goalscorer Diego Rossi and LAFC’s leader in assists, Brian Rodríguez, will be leaving Monday to join the Uruguayan National Team for World Cup Qualifying matches, and Diego Palacios and José Cifuentes will be joining the Ecuadorian National Team for qualifying games as well.

“We are going to take the group that's here,” Bradley said about facing a tough rival in a playoff game without four regular starters. “We know we play Seattle. We are going to work like crazy for two weeks and go to Seattle and give our best effort to move on.”

All four players are expected to be with their teams and will most likely miss the playoff match as they quarantine upon their return.

“It is incredibly frustrating,” Bradley said. “But there's nothing that we can do. So you make sure that everybody that's going to be here is ready. We've got a couple weeks to continue training. We've thought about this for a few weeks, and so it's just the situation that I guess is part of a crazy year.”

 

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