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Vela gets goal, assist to lead LAFC past Timbers 3-2

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Latif Blessing gave a simple “yes” when asked if he considers Los Angeles FC and Portland a rivalry.

Saturday’s matchup had all the makings.

Carlos Vela had a goal and an assist in the first half to lead LAFC past the Timbers 3-2.

[ MORE: Berhalter narrows Gold Cup roster ]

Vela, Major League Soccer’s goals and assists leader, helped LAFC (11-1-4) fend off Portland’s late rally to end the Timbers’ 15-game win streak in home openers.

LAFC withstood a run that included an 85th minute goal by Portland’s Brian Fernandez to pull within one, and shoving in the final minutes that resulted in yellows to Fernandez and LAFC’s Adama Diomande.

“We’re not naive, we understand teams are going to have a hard way to play against us, try to make it hard,” LAFC coach Bob Bradley said. “When’s the last time you saw Messi get mauled the way Carlos (Vela) got mauled tonight?”

Vela scored in the 6th minute after intercepting a pass from Portland goalkeeper Jeff Attinella. He found Diego Rossi on a cross for a goal that made it 2-0 in the 34th minute.

Portland didn’t go away. Christhian Paredes scored less than two minutes into the second half on a goalkeeper deflection as the Timbers pulled within a goal. LAFC’s Blessing countered in the 54th minute with a wide-open volley off of a cross.

“Great cross, great finish, so I’m happy,” Blessing said.

Fernandez scored on a bicycle kick inside the six-yard box to pull Portland within 3-2 in the 85th minute. It was Fernandez’s fourth goal in three appearances with the Timbers since he was acquired as a designated player on May 6.

“We knew that if we had a good start to the second half, the game was there,” Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri said. “And obviously, the crowd lifted us.

“It was a good game, and a good performance, but not the result we wanted, so we have to keep going.”

It was the first home game of the season for the Timbers (4-7-2) and the debut of the remodeled Providence Park. According to the club, the expansion added 4,137 seats in a grandstand on the stadium’s east side to push capacity over 25,000. MLS commissioner Don Garber was in attendance among the sellout crowd of 25,218.

“The place is rocking as it always does, it’s just a little bit louder,” Garber said at halftime. “More people sort of showing their passion for the team. … The Timbers are such an important part of the history of soccer in America have been reflected in the addition.”

Vela has 16 goals and 10 assists this season, six goals ahead of the next-highest scorer.

LAFC has scored a league-high 39 goals.

LAFC is in first place in the Western Conference and boasts one of the best records in the league. The Timbers, who made the MLS Cup final last season, went 4-6-2 in its first 12 games on the road.

Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan has red card rescinded

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
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SEATTLE (AP) Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan will be eligible to play when Seattle travels to Minnesota United after his red card from last weekend’s game was rescinded.

The team said Wednesday that it had won its appeal of Roldan’s red card from Sunday’s 1-1 draw against Los Angeles FC. Roldan would otherwise have been suspended for Saturday’s game.

[ KLOPP: Messi goal was “unsaveable” ]

Roldan was shown the red card in the 18th minute. He and LAFC’s Mark-Anthony Kaye got into a shoving match near the midfield line. Eduard Atuesta ran in to intervene, and Roldan tried to push him off but struck Atuesta across the face.

Referee Ted Unkel, after a discussion with the sideline official, pulled out the red card, dismissing Roldan for violent conduct.

Roldan did not dispute the hand-to-the-face call. But he insisted that it was not his intent.

2019 MLS Power Rankings, Vol. I

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We are bringing a bit of science to our Major League Soccer power rankings this year, but only a bit.

While dubious items like momentum and look will still play a role in where the MLS sides arrive in our rankings, we’re going to consider some items rather unique to the league:

  1. Away record – The league is infamous for difficulty to win across the country
  2. Defense – MLS’ goals-per-game rate of 3+ makes it one of the most offense-forward leagues in the world.
  3. Schedule congestion – Are you playing twice when others around you are barely breaking a sweat?

So with all teams providing us six-matches or more for sample size, it’s time we mix it up with our first MLSPRs of 2019.

24. Colorado Rapids — Twenty-three goals allowed in eight matches. 0-2-2 at home, 0-4 away. The clear No. 24.

23. New York Red Bulls — Big changes coming to Red Bull Arena?

22. New England Revolution — There isn’t an impressive enough win to overshadow losses to Cincinnati and Atlanta.

21. Atlanta United — It’s messy, real messy, in the post-Almiron and Tata era.

Frank De Boer (Photo by Azael Rodriguez/Getty Images)

20. Vancouver Whitecaps — Struggles were expected under a new coach with a big roster flip, so patience should be in long supply especially considering the recent defeat of LAFC (which included a blanking of Carlos Vela). Also worth noting the ‘Caps drew Seattle.

19. Portland Timbers — Still yet to play at home, so getting the benefit of the doubt from us despite a 1-5-1 start.

18. San Jose Earthquakes — Two wins in three could signify an early turned corner.

17. NYCFC — With five draws, are you the pessimist who says, “Only one win,” or the optimist who counters, “Only one loss?”

16. FC Cincinnati — Not quite the tire fire expected by those doubting the acumen of FCC’s lineup. The hope has to be that consistency will come with familiarity.

15. Chicago Fire — Unbeaten in four with NYCFC/Montreal litmus tests next.

14. Minnesota United — Three away wins already and have played just once at home.

13. Orlando City SC — Nani putting together some big performances, but no signature win yet.

12. Real Salt Lake — Streaky side ends four-match losing run by beating Orlando and Cincinnati.

11. Columbus Crew — The defensive record is very impressive under new coach Caleb Porter with just eight goals conceded in eight games. They’ve also only scored eight in a firepower-driven league.

Even on the doorstep, goals have been scarce for Columbus (Eric Albrecht/The Columbus Dispatch via AP)

10. Montreal Impact — The 3-0 loss to Philly stings.

9. Philadelphia Union — The only loss in six is courtesy a cross-country trip to face Zlatan and The Galaxy, which is also a good name for a new band. They could tour with Jem.

8. Sporting KC — We’re here to proffer this long, CONCACAF Champions League-congestion considered leash to Peter Vermes. He’s earned it.

7. DC United — Even in MLS, we didn’t think we’d see an early 1W-2L-1T stretch, albeit with Rooney taking a red and sitting one out.

6. FC Dallas — Excited for the first Texas Derby in two weeks time.

5. Houston Dynamo — First loss of the season comes courtesy a trip to the Galaxy. Forgivable.

4. Toronto FC — Pozuelo is the truth.

3. Seattle Sounders — Carlos Vela at home is understandably where their undefeated season went for death.

2. LA Galaxy — Have allowed two goals in their last four matches, and that’s with new signing Giancarlo Gonzalez only making a token appearance.

1. LAFC — Bob Bradley doesn’t relent, having ridden Carlos Vela to wins of 4-1, 5-0, 4-0, and 4-1 (again) already this season.

MLS Preview: Top of the table clash in Western Conference awaits

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Here’s everything you need to know ahead of a busy and exciting week eight of MLS action, starting on Friday night.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Los Angeles FC v. Seattle Sounders — Sunday, 7 p.m. ET

Unbeaten no more, Los Angeles FC returns home to Banc of California Stadium this weekend to face another Cascadia opponent, only this time, it’s one much stronger on paper. The Seattle Sounders’ visit to LAFC this Sunday sets up a highly-anticipated top of the table clash in the Western Conference, and a Sounders win would put both sides level at 19 points in the standings. Meanwhile, an LAFC win would give Bob Bradley‘s squad an even-bigger lead over the rest of the conference.

Working on Seattle’s favor is that the team has a full week of practice to prepare. It’s coming off a game in which backup forward Will Bruin and midfielder Christian Roldan scored the goals, with Raul Ruidiaz, Nicolas Lodeiro and Jordan Morris all ready for their chance to make an impact. For LAFC, it will have to quickly shake off the defeat and travel fatigue from the trip up the west coast to be ready to face the quick counter attacks of the Sounders. It should be an exciting match, with temperatures expected in the mid-60s around game time, perfect for most players.

LA Galaxy v. Houston Dynamo — Friday, 11 p.m. ET

LAFC may be taking all the attention, but LA’s “other” – some might say, first – team has quietly had a strong start to the season. The LA Galaxy look more like the title-contending teams of old under former Columbus Crew and Boca Juniors legend Guillermo Barros Schelotto, with five wins in the club’s first six games of the season. Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a brace in the Galaxy’s last match, a 2-0 win over the Philadelphia Union, and more importantly, Schelotto appears to have solved the backline woes, as the Galaxy secured another clean sheet.

On the other side, Wilmer Cabrera looks to have rebounded from an off-year in 2018 with a playoff contender in 2019. On the attack, the Dynamo are one of the most dangerous teams in the league, having scored two or more goals in all but one of their games so far this season. Alberth Elis, Mauro Manotas and Tomas Martinez make up one of the best attacking trios in the league, and the Galaxy defense will have plenty of work to do to keep those three from finding the back of the net. Expect goals, and end-to-end action in this one if you stay up for it on the east coast, or you lean back on the couch if on the west coast. In what’s becoming more of a trend, this match will be streamed on Twitter.

Columbus Crew v. Portland Timbers — Sunday, 7:30 p.m. ET

Caleb Porter takes on his former club for the first time since resigning after the 2017 season as the Portland Timbers continue their barnstorming start of the season with a trip to the Columbus Crew. The Timbers are currently the worst team in the standings, with no wins and just one point from the club’s first six games, and the tests won’t get any easier as the few holdovers from the Porter-era in Portland will know. The Timbers are starting the MLS season with eight-straight home games as their home field, Providence Park, undergoes renovations. However, that means that there’s plenty of home games at the back-end, and if the Timbers can pick up a few points before June, it could put them in a place to battle for a playoff place come October.

The Crew meanwhile has done very well under Porter, who took over after the departure of Gregg Berhalter to the U.S. Men’s National Team. The Crew are currently in second place in the Eastern Conference standings, though they suffered a surprise 1-0 defeat last week against Montreal. Look for the likes of Federico “Pipa” Higuain, Gyasi Zardes and Wil Trapp to have a bigger impact against the Timbers, in what will be a rematch from the 2015 MLS Cup final.

Full MLS schedule

Friday

FC Cincinnati v. Real Salt Lake — 7:30 p.m. ET
Toronto FC v. Minnesota United — 8 p.m. ET
LA Galaxy v. Houston Dynamo — 11 p.m. ET

Saturday

Chicago Fire v. Colorado Rapids — 1 p.m. ET
Philadelphia Union v. Montreal Impact — 1 p.m. ET
Orlando City v. Vancouver Whitecaps — 3 p.m. ET
Atlanta United v. FC Dallas — 4 p.m. ET
Columbus Crew v. Portland Timbers — 7:30 p.m. ET
New England Revolution v. New York Red Bulls — 7:30 p.m. ET
San Jose Earthquakes v. Sporting KC — 10 p.m. ET
FC Cincinnati v. Real Salt Lake — 7:30 p.m. ET

Saturday

D.C. United v. New York City FC — 4 p.m. ET
Los Angeles FC v. Seattle Sounders — 7 p.m. ET

Vancouver cools off LAFC via Hwang In-beom’s first goal (video)

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP
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Hwang In-beom has added his first MLS goal to his resume, and the 14-times capped South Korean made sure it mattered in a big way.

The 22-year-old midfielder bagged a first-half goal to lead Vancouver past form side LAFC and a first MLS win for his manager, former LA assistant Marc Dos Santos.

[ MORE: Klopp to face Messi for 1st time ]

New-look Vancouver is now 1W-4L-2T on the season, dropping previously-unbeaten LAFC to 6-1-1.

The ‘Caps stopped Carlos Vela despite another five shots, one of which was saved by keeper Maxime Crepeau. Jamaican Peter-Lee Vassell also put two shots on goal.

Seattle now has the best points-per-game in MLS this season, with 2.67.