The Portland Timbers were denied three points on Sunday after LAFC’s 90th minute equalizer. The Timbers may not have won and Felipe Mora may not have scored, but the match against LAFC might have been the Chilean striker’s most complete performance since he joined MLS.
Mora was signed by the Portland Timbers in January on a one-year loan with an option to buy. Since joining he has played 845 minutes in 14 matches and has contributed seven goals and two assists. That’s an impressive output considering he has only started nine matches, with head coach Giovanni Savarese continuously experimenting with his attacking line.
Mora is one of three strikers vying for the starting number nine role (both Jaroslaw Niezgoda and Jeremy Ebobbisse also play the position). Niezgoda has five goals in 512 minutes and Ebobbisse has eight goals and two assists in 1,062 minutes.
The Timbers have been sharing the love offensively, and this is evident by the three strikers’ numbers. Savarese has also realized the importance of rotation in this condensed season and has all of his forwards firing on all cylinders. But Mora seems to have locked down the number nine position. Ebobisse has been moved outside to the right and has been thriving as a winger while Niezgoda is mostly used as a sub.
Shooters shoot.#PORvLA | 1-0 | #RCTID pic.twitter.com/fd1F4qECUn— Portland Timbers (@TimbersFC) October 19, 2020
In the match against LAFC, Mora displayed that he is much more than just a poacher, influencing matches whether or not he finds the back of the net. Mora played 89 minutes and registered 46 touches, his most ever in a Timbers shirt. Mora was crucial to the Timbers offense and how they dealt with LAFC’s high pressure. He was always the farthest up the pitch, with Portland always looking for him whenever they won the ball.
Mora’s hold-up play was stellar in this match. The striker was able to hold off defenders much larger than him and retain possession, usually laying it off to one of his on-rushing teammates as a result. He also successfully received the ball with his back to goal and dribbled out of tight situations to relieve pressure and start Portland attacks.
Mora caused LAFC problems by continuing to vary his movement at the point of the attack. Sometimes he relied on his hold-up play, but he also created danger with his off-ball runs. Mora made well-timed runs off the back shoulder of the defense and in between the center backs. His runs occupied both center backs and he created his own danger while making space for creative attacking players like Yimmi Chara, Diego Valeri and Ebobisse.
Mora had eight shot-creating actions (his most for the Timbers) and one goal-creating action which demonstrates the attacker’s influence on the match. His goal-creating action came in the 47th minute. Diego Chara charged at the defense and slid a pass to the feet of Mora. Mora took a wonderful touch on the half-turn and played the ball to Ebobisse, who launched a firebolt into the back of the net.
Mora also had multiple opportunities to put his name on the score sheet. He had 0.6 xG and probably should have converted on one of his chances. But Mora always creates danger in the box. He was a constant threat on set pieces despite being only 5’9”, and Diego Valeri seems to have a special connection with the striker. Valeri was able to find Mora — even when he was surrounded by defenders — so Mora could wreak havoc on the defense. All of these things were reason enough to name him to the MLS Team of the Week for Week 19.
As the regular season ends and the Timbers look forward to the playoffs, Savarese will have to rotate and rely on depth during such a compact season. But in must-win matches, Mora is a player that creates danger and makes things happen whether he starts or is subbed on. Mora has had an impactful year with the Timbers so far and I have the feeling he will be even more impactful down the stretch after this fine performance.