Los Angeles Football Club gifted a raucous home crowd with a decisive 4-1 trouncing over visiting team Portland Timbers at the Banc of California Stadium on Sunday, March 10. The win is their second of the season, and was proof of the club’s continued evolution following a strong inaugural season. It was also a display of the ever-expanding role of LAFC captain Carlos Vela, who posted a career highlight of two assists and a goal of his own.
“I’m trying to be the leader of the team every day,” Vela said post-match. “Every day I’m trying to be better—a better player, a better teammate and in the end, I’m working to be the MVP of the league.”
LAFC finished third in the Western Conference last year, and previously drew and lost to the Timbers. This year, Vela’s renewed focus on leadership is paying off, as he exemplified adeptness as equal parts playmaker and attacker.
Despite a confident Portland kickoff, LAFC applied the pressure early on with Christian Ramirez and Diego Rossi testing the Timbers’ keeper Jeff Attinella. At minute 14, the attacking effort paid dividends in the form of a sublime Vela corner to a Mark-Anthony Kaye header, giving LAFC a 1-0 lead.
The Timbers equalized in the 29th minute from a set piece whipped in by captain Diego Valeri to Jeremy Ebobisse. Undeterred, LAFC DMF Eduard Atuesta responded with a breathtaking bender up the line to Vela, who danced across the Timbers’ backline and found Jordan Harvey for an assist to Ramirez, giving LAFC the 2-1 lead before halftime.
Portland gradually unraveled in the second half, as they failed to convert key counterattacks and increasingly resorted to drag-em-to-hell type fouls. Most notably, Ebobisse botched a prime equalizing opp in the 56th minute, and Timbers’ Diego Chara was ejected at the 72nd minute for a second caution.
LAFC “super sub” Adama Diomande made his mark mere moments after entering the game, scoring off a Latif Blessing-Vela combo at minute 68, then slotting Vela a pass for a goal just three minutes later, finalizing the score at 4-1.
Blessing had previously subbed on to relieve fullback Steven Beitashour after an injury. Despite skepticism of his ability to defend, Blessing exemplified his characteristic workhorse ethic, and alongside defensive standouts Eddie Segura and Atuesta helped hold out against Portland’s quick transitions.
With Vela leading by example, LAFC continues to look more dynamic, cohesive, and adventurous in their play. Versatile players like Blessing, and LAFC’s disciplined, defensive-minded midfield are allowing for an attacking front that can shine with the confidence that their backsides are covered. The combination has the hallmarks of a developing powerhouse. And though too early to tell, Vela certainly is laying out a case for that MVP award.
LAFC next play NYC FC, March 17 at Yankee Stadium.