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10-man Timbers draw LAFC 1-1 away from home

Another acrobatic Yimmi Chara goal and a late equalizer from Mamadou Fall saw the teams share the points.

MLS: Portland Timbers at Los Angeles FC Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Yimmi Chara scored another spectacular goal as the Portland Timbers drew their second match of the season 1-1 away at LAFC. The Timbers played the majority of the second half down a player. Mamadou Fall and LAFC were able to make the most of their man advantage with an equlizing goal in the third minute of second half stoppage time.

After a 2-2 draw against the New England Revolution in their home opener last weekend, the Portland Timbers traveled south down I-5 to take on LAFC, who they beat three out of three times in 2021.

With first-choice center backs Larrys Mabiala and Dario Zuparic still unavailable for selection through injury, the biggest question surrounding the Timbers heading into the match was how the Timbers’ back line would be able to handle LAFC’s Carlos Vela-led attack.

The opening moments of the contest were dominated possession-wise by LAFC, controlling 66 percent of the ball through 15 minutes. Despite the strong start from the home team, it would be the Timbers who struck first through a simply outrageous bicycle kick from Yimmi Chara. The same Yimmi Chara who won MLS Goal of the Week with his bicycle kick against New England on opening weekend.

Another truly sensational piece of improvisation from Portland’s younger Chara, and for my money, this goal was even more impressive than the one against the Revolution due to how little time he had to get the shot away after Paredes’ was deflected.

After the goal, the game changed from a slow possession-based LAFC approach to a frantic, end-to-end affair, as both teams looked to capitalize on the others’ desire to push forward up the pitch. Carlos Vela really came to life in this time, drawing a massive save out of Aljaz Ivacic in the 33rd minute, and putting a free-kick narrowly over the crossbar just four minutes later.

Despite the danger produced by Vela and LAFC’s other attackers, it was nearly Claudio Bravo who gave the hosts the equalizing goal in the 44th minute. In an attempt to shepherd the ball out for a corner, Portland’s left-back nervily put the ball off the inside of the post, before eventually booting the ball to safety.

All told, it was a case of “bend don’t break” for the Timbers backline in the opening 45 minutes, as LAFC ramped up the pressure more and more as the first half progressed. At the break, LAFC had been held to just one shot on target due in large part to the performances of Zac McGraw, Bill Tuiloma, and Aljaz Ivacic. Having said that, Portland would have to play the second half with both fullbacks on yellow cards.

The Timbers were given a huge boost at the start of the second half when Carlos Vela was substituted for Kwadwo Opuku. Vela caused all sorts of problems in the first half and was, in my opinion, the most dangerous LAFC player on the pitch before being taken off. Despite Vela’s departure from the match, LAFC picked up where they left off at the end of the opening 45’ and drew two big saves from Ivacic within the first five minutes of the second half.

In the 60th minute, the Timbers brought George Fochive and Sebastian Blanco off of the bench in an attempt to bring some stability to the midfield after a sustained period of LAFC dominance. But just two minutes later, Claudio Bravo was shown a second yellow card for dragging Cristian Arango back on the end line, meaning the Timbers would have to finish the last half hour of the match with 10 men.

From the 60th to the 75th minute, the game was one-way traffic in favor of LAFC. Christian Arango, Ilie Sanchez, and Brian Rodriguez all came close to levelling the score, but McGraw, Tuiloma and Ivacic stood their ground and thwarted just about everything LAFC threw at them.

The few times that the Timbers got the ball in the second half they counter attacked through Sebastian Blanco and Dairon Asprilla, but due to Portland keeping so many men behind the ball, the two often found themselves as the only Timbers attackers against two or three LAFC defenders.

Despite all of the defensive efforts put in by Portland, LAFC finally found the equalizer in the third minute of stoppage time after Cristian Arango found Mamadou Fall inside the six-yard box for an easy tap in.

This is a hugely frustrating result after the team defended so well after going down to 10 men, but there are a lot of positives to take from the performances of the Timbers’ second choice center back partnership and their new starting goalkeeper.

The Timbers are back in action at Providence Park against red-hot Austin FC on Saturday, March 12, with kickoff slated for 7 p.m. PST.