PORTLAND, Ore. – Larrys Mabiala had only scored eight goals in his decade of first-division soccer before arriving in Portland. Such is life for a central defender. You’re judged by contributions that transcend goals. But when you do find net, it’s a standout moment.
Such was the case Sunday at Providence Park. In the 66th minute, the Timbers’ defender found a gap in New York City’s zonal marking ahead of a Diego Valeri corner kick. Settling at the edge of the six-yard box, Mabiala elevated for a training-ground header, giving NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson no chance to prevent Portland from sealing their 3-0 win.
Mabiala peeled off from his first MLS goal to celebrate in front of the east stand, where his wife and children were sitting, he said. The reactions was a type of thank you for his family’s prematch prognostications.
“My wife told me, my kids told me, ‘Today, you’re going to score,’” he said, describing his goal postmatch. “That’s why I went around on this side. I’m very happy about that.”
It was Mabiala’s first goal since signing with Portland on July 26, 2017. Since then, Mabiala has made 20 appearances, taken 13 shots, only one of which ended up on target. After Sunday’s game, 100 percent of those shots on target have ended up in goals.
Though Mabiala’s goal came with his team up two, it provided assurance for a team that had struggled in recent second halves. The insurance not only gave the Timbers a towering margin but also gave fans reason for relief at what looked like a breakthrough win.
“I’m very happy and very proud to score here in Providence Park in front of those fantastical fans,” Mabiala said, “especially because my family was there, too.”
With the goal, Mabiala also earned a part in a celebrated Timbers tradition: the log-slab ceremony honoring goal scorers and clean sheets at the end of each match. On Sunday, Mabiala joined fellow goalscorers Sebastián Blanco and Fanendo Adi in the ceremony as well as goalkeeper Jeff Attinella, who kept a clean sheet in his first start of the season.
“I was looking at the other guys, the previous games, just enjoying that,” Mabiala said, describing his first log-slab honor. “Yeah, it was fun. Very fun.”
The last time Mabiala was able to experience that goal-scoring fun was on May 12, 2017, when he scored for Kayserispor against Konyaspor in the Turkish Süper Lig. Now, his Major League Soccer account is open.