The Portland Timbers went to California looking to play lock-down defense in Sunday afternoon’s match against expansion side Los Angeles FC, and they were successful, taking a point in a scoreless draw. Despite only taking a single point, the Timbers end the day with their now fourteen match unbeaten run intact and having moved into fourth place on the Western Conference table.
Under early pressure from the home side, the Timbers were able to put together the first real chance of the match in the 4th minute. Working the ball down the flank, Sebastian Blanco played Zarek Valentin, playing as a wing back in the Timbers’ five man defensive line, to the end line. Receiving the ball, Valentin chipped a cross over the crowd in the center of the box and found the run of Alvas Powell at the back post. As the ball set up for him, Powell hit a strong volley, but could not steer his attempt on goal.
Moments later, the Timbers came even closer to opening the scoring when the Black and Gold restarted play off the ensuing goal kick. When LAFC keeper Tyler Miller played the ball short to MLS veteran Benny Feilhaber, Diego Valeri was there to pick the pocket of the midfielder and drive toward goal. With only Miller in front of him, Valeri looked to pick out the post with a side-footed shot, but the keeper sprawled out and was able to tip the ball wide.
After weathering the early Timbers chances, LAFC were able to put their stamp on the match, holding the ball for long stretches at a time. Still, the Timbers were able to find more chances on the counter, and Powell and Valeri forced saves from Miller in the 11th and 17th minutes, respectively.
The pressure from the Black and Gold amounted to one particularly nervy moment for the Timbers in the 19th minute. After working the ball around the Timbers’ box, LAFC got it to the feet of young designated player Diego Rossi out wide on the flank. Whipping in a cross that curled toward goal, Rossi found the run of full back Steven Beitashour in on goal only for the ball to skim off the head of the LAFC player and run out for a goal kick.
With LAFC keeping the pressure on, in the 31st minute rookie João Moutinho played a scooped pass over the Timbers back line for the run of striker Adama Diomande. In on goal, the ball dropped in front of Diomande, and LAFC’s leading scorer hit the ball first time from close in. Diomande’s shot was on goal, but the reflexes of Jeff Attinella kept him from opening the scoring, pushing the ball off the post and out of bounds.
The Timbers were able to find another strong chance early in the second half when Valentin was able to slip Samuel Armenteros into the LAFC box on a quick, one-two pass. Armenteros caught up to the ball with a tight angle on goal, snapping off a shot that had Miller beat, but pinged off the far post and away rather than finding the back of the net.
Back in possession, the Black and Gold responded with a flurry of shots from long range that were easily dealt with by Attinella. Finding entry balls into the Timbers box difficult against a packed in Portland formation, the home side resorted to taking any opening they could find.
As the second half wore on, attacking chances were hard to come by for both sides, with the Timbers rarely able to break out of their end and LAFC rarely able to serve the ball into the Timbers’ box.
The Timbers finally were able to get out on the run in the 70th minute, and it was Valentin who sent Armenteros racing forward. The Swedish international’s took him at an angle away from goal, but instead of taking the ball to the corner, Armenteros played a back-heel pass into the path of Blanco, trailing just behind him. Riding a challenge from a Black and Gold defender, Blanco took the ball into the box and hit a shot that forced Miller to bat the ball away from goal. The rebound fell to Armenteros, but the striker had strayed into an offside position.
In the 85th minute, things took a turn for the home side as the Timbers began to break down the pitch with the ball at the feet of Sebastian Blanco. As Blanco charged forward and looked to go around Lee Nguyen, the LAFC defender stuck out a boot and put his studs into Blanco’s thigh, prompting referee Silvio Petrescu to reach to his back pocket for a red card, giving the Timbers a man advantage for the remainder of the match.
Despite being a men down, LAFC had one last chance in the 94th minute. With the ball at his feet, Beitashour juked his way around his defender to create space for himself out on the flank and served in a cross that dipped down at the near post and found the head of Carlos Vela for a snap header. Vela’s chance was on goal, but once again Attinella was on hand to make the grab and preserve the clean sheet.
The Timbers will stay in LA for their next match, when they will take on LAFC again in the US Open Cup quarterfinals on Wednesday evening before returning to Portland to host the Montreal Impact in their return to league play on Saturday.