After a hard-fought opening night win in the cold and rainy confines of Providence Park on Monday, the Portland Timbers will travel to Los Angeles for Matchday 2 on Saturday, March 4, facing off with the current MLS Cup titleholders Los Angeles Football Club (1:30pm PT, MLS Season Pass - Free, FOX). LAFC has yet to make their season debut after having their planned opener against the LA Galaxy at the Rose Bowl postponed due to inclement weather, thus providing the Timbers with another season-opening atmosphere, this time looking to play spoiler.
LAFC enters their sixth season with championship swagger after lifting their first MLS Cup in early November last year while also securing their second Supporter’s Shield in club history a month before that (in a 2-1 road win over Portland at Providence Park).
A new MLS season is now underway however, and all slates are wiped clean. Saturday’s contest presents both teams with an opportunity to establish their rhythm heading into the first few weeks of the campaign.
Portland take on reigning MLS Cup champ LAFC | The Matchup
Facing LAFC on the road
LAFC’s preseason provided uncertainty rather than parity. A 2-1-0 preseason record (one of the wins coming over USL side San Diego Loyal) doesn’t back the notion that they will be able to replicate last season’s impressive start, where they earned a 7-1-2 record in their first 10 matches of league play (4-0-1 at home) . Add in their participation in the 2023 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League (which will begin next Thursday), and LAFC’s capabilities in 2023 become more dubious, having to balance multiple competitions while having a target on their back.
Nonetheless, being one of the more consistent performers in the league since their arrival in 2018, LAFC is still an opponent to be wary of, especially when facing them in southern Los Angeles. Portland is 1-2-3 all-time at LAFC in MLS play, and they have not collected all three points there since September 29th, 2021. In their only two visits in 2022, the Timbers went 0-1-1. They gave LAFC a tough battle and split the points in the final minutes of their March 6th MLS regular season matchup, ending in a 1-1 scoreline. Just a month later in May, they endured a 2-0 loss in U.S. Open Cup play that saw them eliminated from that year’s competition in the round of 32.
Prepping for battle at Exposition Park
The Green & Gold ride into BMO Stadium on a high note still, having defeated Sporting Kansas City by the minimum scoreline to start the season. A scrappy match in frigid conditions, the Pacific Northwest weathers possible role in the progression of the game could’ve factored the level play. With expected temperatures of mid 50’s to low 60’s in southern Los Angeles come kick-off this Saturday, the clash at Exposition Park could provide a more fluid insight into Portland’s potential.
On LAFC’s end, having no shortage of individuals that can make an immediate impact, they will look to their designated players, forwards Carlos Vela and Dénis Bouanga to lead the attack. A club composed of experienced MLS veterans and internationals like defenders Ryan Hollingshead and Giorgio Chiellini, it will be a good test for Portland and their offensive capabilities. New Timbers star playmaker Evander showed flashes of his magic on Monday, and when linked up with compatriot forward Nathan Fogaça, looked very dangerous on the counter. The Timbers may look to Evander to dictate the game, while also expecting forwards to step up in the absence of Yimmi Chara who is out with a hamstring injury.
Some things to keep an eye on
With the 1-0 win against SKC, Portland recorded their 99th shutout in MLS regular season play. Facing one of the top offenses in the league, a shutout against LAFC will not only have the Timbers continue collecting points, but will bring them into triple-digit shutouts in their 13-year MLS existence.
If Portland scores at BMO Stadium, they will record their longest scoring streak in MLS. They currently sit at 21 straight matches with a goal, and it’s Portland’s longest streak since a run of 21 matches from June 3, 2017 – October 22, 2017.
The Timbers are seeking a two-win start for the second time since joining the league, having last done so in 2017 when they won their first three matches of the season.