The Portland Timbers went to California and did what nobody else has in 2019: won at Los Angeles FC. After a physical, hard fought match it was the Timbers’ defense and an opportunistic finish from Jeremy Ebobisse that decided the 1-0 match.
Both sides quickly settled into their presumed roles for the match with the Timbers sitting in on defense and looking to catch their hosts off balance, while LAFC spent long stretches in possession, largely pinning the Timbers back.
In the early going, the weak link for LAFC appeared to be backup keeper Pablo Sisniega who was notably unsettled by the high pressure being put on him by the constant running of Brian Fernandez. The pressure from the Timbers forced Sisniega into several bad giveaways, but nothing came from them as LAFC recovered in time to prevent a clean chance.
The Timbers finally found an opportunity in the 30th minute when Cristhian Paredes fought through a pair of tackles in the center of a pitch and drove forward before uncorking a powerful shot toward the near post that forced Sisniega into a diving save to touch the ball wide.
Then, on the ensuing corner, the Timbers came close again. A whipped in ball from Marvin Loria skipped off a defender and fell to Larrys Mabiala who hit a first-time shot toward goal that Sisniega managed to get low and block, then kick away before Fernandez was able to pounce.
Mabiala came close again just one minute later off another corner kick. This time, Loria’s arching ball fell straight to the big man for a powerful header on goal, but the chance was close enough to Sisniega for the LAFC keeper to stick a hand out and block the ball up and over the bar.
In the 36th minute, it was again the Timbers coming close to opening the scoring as Sebastian Blanco flicked a ball down the pitch and into space for a run in behind from Loria. The youngster brought the ball down and drove toward the LAFC goal before hitting a curling shot that skipped just wide of the far post.
LAFC found themselves with a bonafide chance in the 53rd minute when an errant boot from Julio Cascante brought down Carlos Vela on the edge of the Timbers box. The free kick went wanting, however, when Eduard Atuesta attempted to go direct but instead blazed the ball over the bar.
As the second half wore on, the pressure from LAFC began to mount and the Timbers seemed to slow under the bombardment from the home side. Still, the Timbers held strong and open looks remained difficult to come by for LAFC.
The Timbers finally managed a chance of their own in the second half in the 70th minute when they broke down the pitch after a recovery by Jorge Moreira deep in their own end. After finding Blanco streaking down the pitch, the Argentine played a diagonal ball across the top of the box that Moreira, arriving off a lung-busting run from the opposite end, allowed to run through to the overlap of Fernandez. The Timbers’ striker controlled the ball and looked to pick out the far post, but as he got the shot off, LAFC full back Jordan Harvey slid in to make the stop.
Moments later, it was Blanco played in on goal after a quick exchange with Loria on the edge of the box. Blanco received the ball angled away from goal and snapped off a shot, but waas off-balance and could not place his attempt, allowing Sisniega to make the comfortable save.
Finally, the Timbers got the opening goal of the match in the 84th minute. After Harvey stepped in to break up another Timbers move forward, the ball fell to Jeremy Ebobisse in behind the back line. With no angle to speak of, Ebobisse turned and threaded a close range shot just over the shoulder of Sisniega to tuck inside the far post and give the Timbers the 1-0 lead.
As regulation time ended, LAFC found themselves with another free kick in a dangerous area after Diego Valeri took down Latif Blessing outside the box. This time, it was Vela who took the free kick, but again the attempt was up and over the bar.
The Timbers’ next match comes quickly when they return home to host the Colorado Rapids on Saturday, July 13th. They will face off against Minnesota United in the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup on August 7th.