MLS: Portland, surging into postseason, faces test with LAFC
Los Angeles Football Club can move closer to securing their second Supporters’ Shield title in their five-year club history when visiting the Portland Timbers Sunday afternoon.
With the Western Conference top playoff seed locked up, LAFC manager Steve Cherundolo refutes the idea his team isn’t focused on winning regular season honors first.
“Any competition we (have) entered, we’d like to win, so that’s the mentality of this group and this organization, and we’re up for the challenge,” Cherundolo said. “So first and foremost is Portland.”
LAFC (20-8-4, 64 points) enter the weekend tied in the Shield standings with Philadelphia, and have struggled of late on the road. They’re winless with four defeats in their last five away games while Cherundolo has struggled to integrate an abundance of new riches in attack.
The summer signings of Wales and former Real Madrid star Gareth Bale, Denis Bouanga and Cristian Tello have combined for 18 appearances, 700 minutes and two goals. LAFC has been rescued by Cristian Arango’s team-leading 16 goals and Carlos Vela’s 11 goals and team-leading 11 assists.
Meanwhile, Portland continues to assemble another late surge into the postseason. A season ago, the Timbers won 10 of their last 14 to surge to a fourth-place finish in the Eastern Conference and eventually reach the MLS Cup, losing on penalties to New York City FC.
This time it’s been a more prolonged if not quite as elite run of 17 games where Portland has suffered only two defeats. The Timbers had won four in a row before salvaging a very late draw at Columbus in second-half stoppage time on a stunning equalizer from Santiago Moreno.
Jaroslaw Niezgoda leads the Timbers with nine goals. Despite missing 2021 leading scorer Felipe Mora for most of the year, the Timbers entered the weekend in sixth place and three points above the playoff line in part because they’ve spread out the scoring, with five players scoring at least five times.
“We have two very important matches that will decide our destiny, our future,” Portland head coach Giovanni Savarese said. “The guys have done a very good job in the second part of the season to put ourselves in a good situation to now compete in these two games to make (the) playoffs.”
–Field Level Media