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LAFC's Bid for Open Cup Ends with 1-0 Loss to Portland Timbers

Photography by Juan Vargas

LAFC's 1-0 quarterfinals loss to the Portland Timbers in the U.S. Open Cup on July 10, 2019, was a lesson in quality over quantity.

Yes, LAFC won more duels, passed more accurately, and had 61% possession, but the most telling stat of the game? Only a single LAFC shot on goal the entire match.

Despite out-possessing and out-passing their northern nemesis, the Western Conference leaders appeared off-balance from the outset, an unusual occurrence for a team that has a stellar home field record. Their attacking trio suffered from a combination of poor touches and a failure to make fundamental, offensive runs. It didn't help that Diego Rossi was consistently outmuscled, Carlos Vela (c) double teamed, and Christian Ramirez generally stagnant.

Instead, Portland took firm control of the reigns with their Argentinians Brian Fernández up top and Sebastián Blanco in center mid. The duo put LAFC on their heels and made LAFC keeper Pablo Sisniega earn his keep. Timbers right back Jorge Moreira (currently on loan from River Plate) was also effective in shutting down Rossi and helping subdue the Vela threat.

Portland had a handful of prime looks at goal, including a Blanco-assisted breakaway for right wing Marvin Loria, who squandered his 1v1 with the keeper by shooting wide; and a close-range shot from Fernandez blocked by a certain Jordan Harvey flinging his body across the goal.

The Timbers eventually found the back of the net at the 84th-minute mark, when left wing Jeremy Ebobisse took advantage of a deflection to give the visitors the lead, and a ticket to the semis.

The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is the oldest national soccer competition in the U.S., combining both pro and amateur teams. This year's 106th installment featured 52 professional teams (MLS and USL) and 32 Open Division amateurs. The remaining two USL Championship teams have been eliminated in the quarterfinals. None of the four remaining MLS teams have ever won the title.

Wednesday's face-off between LAFC and Portland was expected to be a choppy, tight affair. Portland would be seeking vengeance for their 2018 Open Cup loss to LAFC, and they looked poised to do so. Leading up to yesterday's match, the Timbers notched five wins in their past six games, with Fernández posting a cool six goals in six games.

Chalk it up to the cluster of Gold Cup / Open Cup / MLS scheduling (this is LAFC's third game in eight days), and perhaps even an overlooked hand ball, but for a team that has a reputation for delivering at home, the Black & Gold simply lacked quality and execution.

"Look to be a good team, you gotta be ready when your chance comes," said LAFC Coach Bob Bradley post-match.

High points for the home team included Sisniega, who made multiple demanding saves, and has been an important factor in LAFC's backline getting comfortable knocking the ball around. Sisniega recently stepped in for Tyler Miller who was out for international duty. It's unknown if and when Miller will make his return as a starter.

Super sub Adama Diomande also provided some much-needed juice partway through the second half, and Vela had a beauty of a free kick that floated just high, followed by a late-game bicycle kick denied by Portland's Zarek Valentin.

All in all, LAFC's desire was evident, but their efforts were too little and too tepid. The Timbers were decisively the more dangerous presence on the pitch, setting the tone of the match on their terms.

"I'm pretty sure that [Steve] Clark handles the ball outside the box, and knocks it away from Carlos [Vela] as Carlos is running in," said Bradley, referring to a 50/50 run-in between Vela and Timbers' keeper Steve Clark at the 79-minute mark.

"But there's no VAR, and it doesn't get seen. And so, you know, there's moments like that. But we've never been a team that spends a lot of time talking about calls and referees. We look harder at ourselves and we know tonight, football-wise, in the moments that mattered, we weren't good enough."

LAFC still sit comfortably at the top of the Western Conference, with a whopping 34-point goal differential. But with their next MLS matchup against Houston Dynamo in less than 48 hours, and the LA Derby (El Tráfico) the following week, they'll have much to prepare for.

Up Next:

U.S. Open Cup Semifinals August 7, 2019. Orlando City v. Atlanta United; and Minnesota United v. Portland Timbers.

LAFC v. Houston Dynamo July 12, 2019, at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston.

Contact Christine Kwon at

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