With two games to go for the regular season to end, MLS fans want teams to play with high stakes on the line till the very end, and this match shouldn’t disappoint as far as that’s concerned. Los Angeles FC currently top the Western Conference standings but have still got a bit to do to win the MLS Supporters’ Shield, which goes to the best league side, because Philadelphia Union have accumulated the same number of points.
Portland Timbers, on the other hand, are currently in sixth place on the Western Conference standings and need to make sure that they qualify for the playoffs. A game against such a tough side couldn’t have come at a worse time. The two sides have faced each other 15 times with five matches ending in a draw and five in favor of either side. Portland wouldn’t mind a draw and will be expected to get a point at home, at the very least, but Los Angeles FC need all three points and that might just go on to be a decisive factor.
The last match between the two sides ended 2-0 in favor of LAFC back in April. This was a US Open Cup tie and might not be the most instructive as far as predicting this match is concerned because the cup has a lot of variables.
The last league meeting between the two sides ended in a 1-1 draw with LAFC getting an equalizer three minutes into the 90 thanks to Mamadou Fall. The Timbers had opened the scoring thanks to Yimmi Chara in the 18th minute but shot themselves in the foot after Claudio Bravo was sent off in the 62nd minute after receiving a second yellow card.
LAFC had to still wait a long time to capitalize on that advantage and got something out of the game in the end.
Santiago Moreno’s shot five minutes into the 90 earned the Portland Timbers a valuable point against Columbus Crew over a week ago. It looks like last-minute winners are a common occurrence in games involving the Timbers.
Columbus Crew took the lead in this match thanks to Kevin Molino in the 36th minute and would’ve ultimately been quite disappointed that they didn’t take all three points. They were at home, had 53% of the possession and took 15 shots compared to the Timbers’ nine.
The Timbers showed some great fighting spirit against the odds and they’ll need that against their next opponent.
The Timbers are currently going through their best run all season. Prior to the draw, they’d won four matches in a row and the draw came thanks to a really late equalizer. There’s a lot of momentum building in this side and they’ve got to use that at home. LAFC are one of the best sides in the league but every side can be beaten in this league.
Even a point might do under the circumstances but they need to approach this like it’s a playoff game and go for the win.
Jaroslaw Niezgoda has been the team’s top goalscorer so far this season but has only scored nine goals in 28 matches. Dairon Aspirilla is next with eight goals from 27 matches. The two haven’t really added a lot of assists either, getting just two each. This has been an issue for the team all season and has held them back.
They’ll need to upgrade in this area first if they wish to enter the elite bracket. They might even need two forward players for next season. Santiago Moreno has been asked to chip in from midfield. He has scored seven goals and also registered six assists. He’s the only attacking-minded player that gets a pass.
LAFC beat Houston Dynamo 3-1 in their last MLS match and needed some luck on the way. Dynamo conceded two penalties in the first-half to make it a lot easier for LAFC to get all three points. Carlos Vela slotted home both chances, which were sandwiched between a Corey Baird goal for the Dynamo in the 24th minute.
Ryan Hollingshead got another after the break to give LAFC all three points in what was ultimately a fairly easy win for the western conference table toppers.
Carlos Vela has been taking the headlines for a few seasons — and Giorgio Chiellini and Gareth Bale have joined the party but Cristian Arango’s mostly been responsible for LAFC’s rise this season.
He has scored 16 goals in the league and also notched up four assists. He’s led the line brilliantly, doing his defensive work diligently and also in the higher percentile among forwards for dribbling, progressive passing and carrying. He could improve when it comes to aerial duels but for the most part, the 27-year-old Colombian has been putting in complete center-forward displays all season.
Whatever happens with the other star names, he’s going to be just as important if LAFC are going to win it all this season.
The two star names are yet to show their full bag of tricks. Giorgio Chiellini’s trivella pass made some headlines two weeks back but it’s hard to measure if he’s had any real impact since joining the club. The same can be said for Gareth Bale, who has mostly been coming off the bench.
It might just be a case of preparing for the playoffs and trying to get as much rest as possible for the two legends but LAFC and the larger MLS fans might just be a tad bit disappointed that they haven’t got to see more from the two. This hasn’t stopped LAFC from bossing the western conference, however, which is just how they’d like it.
LAFC were favorites to win the league even before their arrival. Their arrival should supplement what was already a top side. Both players have made their name by being selfless superstars throughout their career and there’s no reason for the LAFC players to worry that their arrival will change the dynamic.
|Teams||Portland Timber vs Los Angeles FC|
|Time||Sunday, 2 October at 12 pm ET onwards|
|How to watch||ABC, ESPN Deportes, TSN2|
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Varun is a web journalist who has been writing on sports for 13 years. He took a shine for the MLS during the 2021 season and has been following it and writing about it since, alongside his work involving the English Premier League, La Liga, and the Serie A. He is deeply interested in soccer analytics and strategy and has aspirations to move into coaching at some point. Email: [email protected]More info on Varun Shetty
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