LAFC coach Bob Bradley wasn’t all smiles postgame, however, making clear his displeasure with the physical treatment doled out to superstar Carlos Vela by the Timbers – and referee Robert Sibiga’s handling of the rugged match, which ended with confrontations and tempers flaring on both sides.
“We’re not naive. We understand that teams are going to have a hard way to play against us, are going to try to make it hard,” said Bradley. “[But] when’s the last time you saw [Lionel] Messi get mauled the way Carlos got mauled tonight? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game where Messi got mauled like that.
“And in the end, if I don’t say that, the sad thing is, nobody else will write it, everybody, the fans will all yell ‘diving, diving, diving.’ But come on. We need really good games in this league. Yes, we need rivalries. Yes, we need emotion. Yes, we need everything. … And look, it’s a tough game. That’s not a complaint. But it’s just got to be managed. It’s just got to be managed.”
Vela, the runaway leader for the MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi with 16 goals and 10 assists in LAFC’s first 16 games, was fouled eight times on Saturday; none of his teammates were fouled more than once. Sibiga doled out four yellow cards to the Timbers and two to the visitors; four of those six total cautions were produced in the game's final five minutes and injury time.
Bradley said that at halftime fullback Jordan Harvey was one of several LAFC players to report dangerous and unduly rugged challenges by the home side – “Jordan got raked early,” he noted – and after the final whistle he could be seen engaging with Portland head coach Giovanni Savarese in a long, animated conversation.
“There was a lot in it tonight,” LAFC's veteran boss told members of the media. “There’s going to be physical games. But I don’t like to see it get to the point that it got [to] in the second half, that’s my opinion. I think you can have two teams that really go after it, but it can still be done in a way where it’s competitive, it’s physical, but somehow you can see that it’s above the line when it comes to football. And I thought it got close tonight, I really do.”
As he has in the past, Bradley underlined his commitment to fluid, possession-oriented soccer and suggested that MLS would benefit from more of the same across the league.
“Everything that we do is to try to have as many really good games as possible in this league. And look, good games include a physical element, for sure,” he said. “But good games – teams go at it, where you can see there’s respect, there’s still the mix between really good attacking play and then the kind of defending that you see against really good attackers. You see teams with a real identity and sense of how they want to play. And I think we need as many of those games as possible. So I tend to be a tough critic every week when I look at the whole league, because I want to see this part go up and up and up.”