"Big morale booster": Portland Timbers eye playoffs after crucial win over LAFC


The Portland Timbers were hardly anybody's dark-horse pick to make a late-season push towards the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs – especially after parting ways with longtime manager Giovanni Savarese last month.

And yet four games into the Miles Joseph interim era, they’re doing just that – going 2W-1L-1D in that span, including Saturday’s statement 2-0 victory over LAFC.

Portland are now just one point off the ninth-and-final playoff spot in the Western Conference after winning back-to-back home games for the first time this season.

“Games like these against good teams, good opponents, always bring out much more confidence to the whole group,” said Larrys Mabiala, who opened the score at Providence Park in the 28th minute. “And we’re going to reflect on this and keep working on what we did well tonight to be able to beat a team like LAFC.”

Claudio Bravo sealed the match for the Timbers with his 53rd-minute goal, but Joseph was more impressed with the Argentine fullback's defensive work – specifically keeping LAFC captain Carlos Vela off the scoresheet.

“It was really impressive,” Portland’s interim boss said of the 26-year-old. “Claudio, as you know, is just a great defender. And, you know, his task was gonna be Vela… he performed one of his best games."

The Timbers hit the road on Sunday, Sept. 17 (8:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass, FS1) for a Matchday 32 clash at Austin FC – the first of five crucial matches before Decision Day on Oct. 21.

Whether they’ll still be in the playoff picture by then remains to be seen, but defender Zac McGraw likes the club’s chances.

“Ultimately you can’t really tie that many remaining games, but obviously LAFC’s a really good team, they’re defending MLS Cup champions,” McGraw stated, highlighting Portland’s convincing win over an elite MLS opponent.

“It’s a big morale booster. Big one for the team.”