Last night, the Portland Timbers drew Los Angeles Football Club, but it really felt more like a loss. There’s probably a few reasons for that, but three really stand out: The first is that the draw happened because of yet another goal in extra time. While it hasn’t happened in a while, it’s something that plagued Portland earlier this season. They currently lead the league in goals allowed in the final 15 minutes at 11.
The second reason is the yellow cards. Two early yellow cards shown to Diego Chara and Eryk Williamson made things difficult for the Timbers. All of a sudden, the midfielders had to adjust how they approached every single tackle. Head coach Giovanni Savarese said that he felt that having to worry about that kind of thing handicapped them throughout the match.
“I think that influenced the match for sure, and made our game more difficult because our midfielders had to be extra cautious to make sure that they didn’t arrive to a tackle at the wrong time,” Savarese said. “When some moments they were going to try to get there and if they were one second late, they couldn’t go for the ball because you have a yellow card from the start of the match.”
The third reason is the one that makes most of us feel uneasy for the future: Jeremy Ebobisse left the game in the second half after a mid-air collision and a hard fall on his left leg. It was the second big fall he took that game. The Timbers weren’t able to provide any information on his condition after the match, but will hopefully have more soon.
Portland has attacking options generally speaking, but it’s a huge blow if Ebobisse has to sit for any amount of game time because of injury. He leads the team in goals right now with eight and was the lone scorer last night against LAFC. He’s played a key role for the attack in 2020 as both a winger and a striker, and losing him would undoubtedly strain the Timbers in this final stretch.
“He’s done a great job like every player in this team,” Savarese said. “And he definitely has been one of those players ... that has put a lot of work into it and he has shown well with goals.”
Besides Ebobisse’s injury, what stings the most about this draw was that Portland once again played very well for most of the match. They dominated in most facets of the game for about 90% of last night. They outshot LAFC 10-2 in the first half alone, spending what felt like an eternity in the attacking third. The one goal they scored wasn’t totally reflective of how often they were finding the lanes and putting pressure on LAFC.
But all that work is nullified if you can’t capitalize when needed. And the truth is that it doesn’t matter if you play well for 90% of the match if the other 10% goes poorly enough that it causes you to drop points. It’s the same thing that caused the LAFC loss just last month, and LAFC once again took advantage of that sliver of space given to them and got a much more favorable result.
“We did have a lot of opportunities that didn’t end up in a goal, and we need to fix those little things,” Felipe Mora said afterwards through a translator. “And just as you say that just one time that they got to the net, they made it to the goal.”
It wasn’t the only time, but it was the only one that mattered. And now instead of taking sole possession of first place in the Western Conference, they remain tied with the Seattle Sounders. Sporting Kansas City is just one point behind. When things are so close, it’s results like these that come back to haunt you. But for now, all Portland can do is focusing on getting three points in future matchups.
“We need to be ready to make sure that we don’t get to decision day to try and make the playoff,” Savarese said. “That’s what we’re fighting for and that’s what we’re competing for.”