Carlos Vela scored in his first start since late August, but Jorge Villafana leveled in the 90th minute to secure a 1-1 draw for the Portland Timbers on Decision Day presented by AT&T at Banc of California Stadium.
LAFC were punished for missing numerous chances to tack onto the early lead and conceded Villafana’s headed equalizer in the 90th minute. The result means Bob Bradley's side finish as the West No. 7 seed and will have to go to CenturyLink to take on the No. 2 Seattle Sounders in a Round One Match, while the #3 Timbers will host #6 FC Dallas.
In his first start since August 22, Vela gave LAFC an early lead, pouncing on the rebound of a Latif Blessing shot parried in his direction and blasting the rebound in from the edge of the six-yard box. The sequence started following an Eryk Williamson turnover just outside the 18-yard box.
Vela also absorbed a few heavy challenges and appeared to come out of it well, perhaps an even more important sign for LAFC, which had numerous chances to add to their lead. Diego Rossi, who clinched the Golden Boot presented by Audi — the first time in MLS history the same club has had back-to-back winners — beat Timbers 'keeper Steve Clark before putting a shot off the post as part of LAFC’s early dominance. Christian Torres’s back-post lob on the rebound landed on the top netting. In the 37th minute, Vela put a 20-yard attempt off the crossbar and Rossi hammered the far post with a low shot in the 53rd minute.
In the 80th minute, LAFC goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer was pressed into his first save, diving to his right to deny Diego Valeri from close range. Three minutes from time, Vermeer got big to push aside a Yimmi Chara attempt at the back post. But Villafana later latched onto a Valeri service to score his first goal in five years to secure a draw.
- THE BIG PICTURE: For much of the match, LAFC looked a lot more like the team that put fear in the opposition and went on a record-setting Supporters’ Shield run last year than the one that struggled mightily throughout the 2020 season. But that 2019 team was ruthless in finishing chances. That’s what was sorely missed against Portland. The Timbers were without the influential Diego Chara, but found a way to share the points thanks to a rare Villafana goal.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Villafana’s first MLS goal since scoring in a Decision Day win over the Colorado Rapids in 2015 not only secured a point for his current team, but he got neutral MLS fans, and those of us who cover the league, jacked up for the Sounders-LAFC Round One Match as a result of that goal.
Seattle vs LAFC first round of playoffs— Stu Holden (@stuholden) November 9, 2020
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Valeri was special again. He was unlucky not to have a goal of his own, but the ball he served up for Villafana’s equalizer was a special one.
- LAFC: at Seattle Sounders | Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs Round One Match
- POR: vs. FC Dallas | Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs Round One Match