After four losses in their last five games and back-to-back 3-0 losses, LAFC were in desperate need of points to get their season back on track and gain some confidence.
The Portland Timbers, on the other hand, hadn’t been able to train outdoors all week due to the smoke from the area’s wildfires and were coming to Banc of California Stadium without MLS is Back Tournament MVP Sebastian Blanco, who suffered a season-ending injury against the Seattle Sounders on September 6.
The Timbers scored first, but LAFC rapidly responded with three goals in 10 minutes and then added a fourth in the dying moments of the game to secure all three points with a solid 4-2 victory.
“Somewhere 20 minutes, 25 minutes into the first half, you could just see the tempo of the passing pick up, balls moving quickly, the right number of touches,” LAFC head coach Bob Bradley said after the game. “Diego [Rossi]'s goal was a really good goal in terms of how the ball moved and the timing. And that certainly gives confidence again and that reinforces with players that these are the things that we've tried to do and if you go through a period and things are not as sharp then you've got to just focus on getting back to the to some of the basic things and doing them better and better, faster and faster.”
LAFC's first-half goals all came in quick succession towards the end of the first half, as they scored in the 37th, 41st and 46th minutes. Portland were quick to note the loss of concentration after the match.
“Listen, I think it was just a mental breakdown for us," said Timbers midfielder Eryk Williamson, who scored Portland's opener. "I think it’s…everyone is frustrated about those 15 minutes and it’s something we need to focus on and get better at. On the field, they kind of felt in control for those 15 minutes and we just needed to get on the ball and I think that’s where we lacked a bit of leadership from me and some of the other guys. Some of the guys in the midfield we needed to step up in that moment and get control of the game and I think we ultimately kind of gave the game away in that kind of moment.”
Bradley added that it was especially nice to get Eduard Atuesta back on the field late in the game. The 2019 Best XI midfielder Atuesta had been an integral part of the LAFC midfield during the MLS is Back Tournament but has not played since due to a knee injury. His loss has coincided with LAFC's late summer swoon.
The Colombian subbed into Saturday night's game in the 80th minute and was part of the buildup that led to Danny Musovski’s goal in the 95th minute.
“You see that when he steps on the field, even as he's coming back from injury, his intelligence on the field is really important for us,” Bradley said of Atuesta’s return. “There are some players that just make everyone else on their team better when they have the ball. They give the game rhythm they make good decisions. Eduard is certainly that player for us. And so, really nice to see him back on the field and hopefully we can continue to move his minutes.”
With this win, LAFC jump up to 4th place in the Western Conference standings. Their next game in on Friday, September 18 against the second-place Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field (10 pm ET).